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James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

No- 7- 

William Richardson Davie: A Memoir 


J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Ph.D. 

Followed by His Letters with Notes 


Kemp P. Battle, LL.D. 




James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

No. 7. 


William Richardson Davie: A Memoir 

J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Ph.D. 

Followed by His Letters with Notes 


Kemp P. Battle, LL.D. 




-Ik lis 




In view of Davie's distinguished, public services and more 
particularly, because of his connection with the University of 
North Carolina, the following- of his letters seem worthy of 
publication. So few of his letters have been preserved that 
those w T hich remain have an additional value and interest to 
students of the character, life, and career of "The Father of 
the University", who is also one of the most distinguished 
figures in North Carolina history. The letters are annotated 
carefully and freely wherever they are not self-explanatory. 

As an introduction to the letters, there is a sketch of Gen- 
eral Davie's life. With Dr. Hubbard's volume in the Sparks 
Biographies, and Hon. Walter Clark's address at Guilford 
Battle Ground already in existence and covering the field so 
ably, the author of this sketch felt some hesitation in under- 
taking to write another, but as some new facts in regard to 
Davie had come to light in his investigations, it was thought 
best that it should be done. He wishes, however, to acknowl- 
edge his great indebtedness to both of these writers above 
mentioned. So constantly have they been used in preparing 
this sketch that it was impossible to refer to them in the 
notes. He also wishes to express his grateful acknowledge- 
ments to his colleague, Dr. Kemp P. Battle, for much infor- 
mation in regard to' Davie and for many helpful suggestions 
as to the sketch. 


As in the case of many others of the Revolutionary charac- 
ters of North Carolina, we lack many facts that would be of 
interest and value in reg-ard to the life and ancestry of Gen- 
eral Davie. At his death he left more of the material from 
which history is written than most Southern men, but nearly 
all of this disappeared in the wholesale robbery and destruc- 
tion that accompanied Sherman's march throug-h South Car- 
olina. Thus many documents that would throw much lig-ht 
on his early life and that would give a clear idea of his char- 
acter, are missing - . 

He was the son of Archibald Davie and was born at Egre- 
mont, Cumberland county, England, on June 20th, 1756. J 
His mother, whose maiden name was Richardson, named him 
for her brother, the Rev. William Richardson, at that time a 
Presbyterian clerg-yman in South Carolina. 

In 1763 the Treaty of Paris put an end to the Seven Years' 
War, or,' as it was known in America, the French and Indian 
War. Mr. Davie then visited America, and among- other 
places went to the Waxhaw settlement on the Catawba river, 
where Mr. Richardson was living-. There he left the son 
under the uncle's care. The latter had no children and, 
becoming very fond of his nephew, he adopted him as his son 
and heir. From this time on, nothing- is known of the boy's 
relations with his father or the rest of his immediate family. 
The elder Davie was in South Carolina during- the Revolution, 2 
however, and it is probable that he and his son were in touch 
with each other. 

1 Some authorities give the date as 1759. 

2 State Records XIV., p. 760. 

William Richardson Davie. 5 

Davie's early education was received from his uncle, but he 
was later sent to Queen's College, an academy in Charlotte. 
About 1772 he entered Nassau Hall at Princeton. Dr. John 
Witherspoon was at this time president of the college and 
was famous for his patriotic ideas. A native of Scotland, he 
was fond of saying- that he had become an American the 
moment he landed. He had great influence with his students 
and they imbibed from him much loyalty to the cause of their 
country which they would scarcely have received from the 
surrounding- population. Nor was his influence confined to 
his students, for he was an influential member of the New 
Jersey constitutional convention and of the Provincial Con- 
gress. He was later a member of the Continental Congress 
and sig-ned the Declaration of Independence. In this body he 
was prominent and his associates found him "as profound a 
civilian as he was before known as a philosopher and divine." 
He always wore clerical dress, and when an allusion was made 
to it, said that he was "God's minister in a sacred and in a 
civil sense." 

The first service that Davie rendered to the patriot cause 
and his first military service was before his graduation in 
the summer of 1876, when, with the full approval of Dr. 
Witherspoon, a party of students, of .whom he was one, vol- 
unteered for service in New York and were in the army for 
several months. In the autumn, upon his return to Prince- 
ton, he took his examinations and was granted the degree of 
Master of Arts with first honor. 

Before he could reach South Carolina, his adopted father 
died and Davie was thus left practically alone in the world. 
He had already settled upon the law as his profession and 
soon commenced the study of it in Salisbury. He was natur- 
ally suited to the profession both in mental equipment and in 
personality, and soon became much absorbed in his studies. 
But they were not to continue very long- at this time, for in 
the early winter of 1777, Charleston was threatened by the 
British and he joined a detachment raised in North Carolina 

6 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

and put under the command of General Allen Jones. The 
threatened attack being- abandoned, the force only reached 
Camden and, after about three months of service, returned 
home. Davie then resumed his interrupted studies. But in 
the autumn of 1878, when it was discovered that the British 
were planning- a Southern campaign, the Congress called 
upon North Carolina to furnish 2,000 additional troops, and 
early in 1779 a troop of cavalry was raised about Salisbury-. 
William Barnett, who raised the troop 1 was made its captain 
and Davie became one of the lieutenants. He was commis- 
sioned by Governor Caswell, April 5th, 1779, and immediately 
put in command of a detachment of 200 men and sent to 
quell a threatened uprising- of the Tories probably in what is 
now Burke county. Before his arrival, however, it had been 
suppressed. Barnett's troop, upon joining the Southern army 
under the command of General Lincoln, was attached to 
Pulaski's Legion, and Barnett resigning soon after, Davie 
succeeded him as captain and in a short time received his 

His first active service was in the battle of Stono, near 
Charleston, on June 20th, 1779. Davie was seriously wounded 
and dismounted but he was saved from certain capture and 
possible death by an unknown soldier who, at the risk of his 
own life, carried him off the field. For some time Davie was 
in a hospital in Charleston and his wound refusing to heal 
he found that military service would be an impossibility for 
a considerable period. Thereupon he , returned to his legal 
study in Salisbury. 

In September he received his license to practice before the 
county courts, it being given him, it is said, at the request of 
Nash who at once sent him to attend the courts on Holston 
River, then in the western part of the State, in order to find 
out the sentiment of the people. In the following spring he 
was admitted to practice in the Superior courts. 

1 Davie is said to have suggested to Barnett that he should raise the 
troop and to have done most of the necessary work himself. 

William Richardson Davie. 7 

But Davie was too full of enthusiasm and patriotism to be 
content with the business of civil courts when the cause of 
his country was being- tried in the supreme test of arms, and 
sometime in the spring of 1780 he received authority to raise 
a troop of cavalry and two companies of mounted infantry. 
To equip these Major Davie sold his inheritance from his 
uncle and used the proceeds. 

During- the summer he and his men took a notable part in 
the operations on the South Carolina line. After several 
skirmishes in which he showed great daring- and military 
skill, he took part in the eng-ag-ement at Hanging- Rock and 
after carrying his prisoners to Charlotte, turned South again, 
passed Gates retreating from Camdem, and in spite of the 
latter's wishes, went to the scene of the battle 1 and there 
saved a great quantity of stores. About this time he was 
appointed a colonel by Governor Nash and given authority 
to raise a regiment. While this was being done, Davie 
moved about the British army with a small force of horse and 
was successful in several minor engagements. His services 
were of great value, for while there was nothing decisive in 
the engagements, he succeeded in keeping the British in a 
constant state of unrest and uneasiness, and thus did much 
to destroy the morale of the enemy's force. For a time his 
was the only organized and armed body in the South in active 
opposition to the British. On September 26th, saying that 
he would give the British a taste of what Hornet's Nest 
would give them, he held the whole army of Cornwallis in 
check at Charlotte for several hours, and though compelled 
in the end to withdraw, did so in good order. The next day 
at Salisbury his force was increased to over three hundred 
men and for the next two weeks he occupied himself in cut- 
ting off supplies from - Cornwallis, repressing Tories and 
inciting the patriots to increased efforts. During all this 

l General Gates wished Davie to turn back with him, but Davie told 
him that he and his men were perfectly acquainted with Tarleton and 
not afraid of him at all. 

8 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

time he showed his great qualities as a soldier and a com- 
mander. Bold and dashing-, the ideal cavalry officer, he was 
ready on an instant to seize any advantage that might pre- 
sent itself and has been fittingly called the Hotspur of the 
Southern army. But with all his dash and impetuosity, he 
had great discretion and foresight, qualities for the lack of 
which many have failed who otherwise would have been 
great cavalry leaders. 

The American success at King's Mountain caused Corn- 
wallis to retreat into South Carolina and Davie followed close 
behind. But in November the term of service for which his 
men were enlisted, expired, and they returned home leaving 
Davie without a command. He was not willing- to be idle if 
he could be of any service and, at General Smallwood's sug- 
gestion, considered raising a legion. To obtain the neces- 
sary authority he appealed to the Board of War at Halifax. 
This extraordinary body had been created in 1870 with pow- 
ers that were in excess of those granted by the State consti- 
tution to the governor and commander-in-chief. The Board was 
composed of Alexander Martin, John Penn, and Oroondates 
Davis. Between them and Governor Nash there was open 
disagreement and this caused the latter to decline to stand 
for reelection. His successor, Thomas Burke, when he came 
into office, declared the powers granted the Board by the 
General Assembly unconstitutional and reduced its members 
to the authority of the governor by the threat of resignation. 
In the strained relations existing between Governor Nash 
and the Board, Davie's application was not considered and he 
abandoned his plan. His opinion of the Board of War has 
come down to us: "Nothing could be more ridiculous than 
the manner in which it was filled. Martin, being a warrior 
of great fame, 1 was placed at the head. Penn, who was 
only fit to amuse children, and Davis, who knew nothing but 
a game of whist, composed the rest of the Board." 

l Davie like the other military men of the time made fun of Governor 
Martin at every opportunity for his alleged cowardice in battle. 

William Richardson Davie, 9 

But so valuable a servant was not long to be absent from 
important service. When General Nathaniel Greene suc- 
ceeded Gates in the command of the Southern army, he met 
Davie and offered him the office of commissary from which 
Colonel Thomas Polk had just resigned, saying- it was impos- 
sible to feed the army. It was not a position which appealed 
in any way to Davie whose tastes w T ere all for active service 
in the field, and in addition, this position involved ceaseless 
activity, forethought, and responsibility with no hope of 
honor, reward, or excitement. But ambitious as he was, he 
never seems to have hesitated about its acceptance, and in 
January, 1872, entered upon the duties of the office. General 
Greene soon sent him to appeal to the legislature of North 
Carolina for men and means, and by that body he was made, 
first, superintendent of the Salisbury district, and later, Com- 
missary General of the State. The position under Greene, 
difficult under the most favorable circumstances, was ren- 
dered doubly so by the condition of the country and the 
depreciation of currency, but Davie filled it with conspicuous 
success. Nor is it too much to say that he contributed as 
much, if not more, to the success of Greene's army as any 
man connected with it, not excepting even that gallant and 
skilful commander himself. He was with Greene for four 
months and was present at Guilford Court House, Hobkirk's 
Hill, the evacuation of Camden, and the siege of Ninety-Six. 
It was during this siege that he was made Commissary Gen- 
eral of North Carolina. 

Difficult as his position with Greene had been this proved 
even more so. Troops had to be equipped, supplies gathered 
and sent South, though the means of transportation were lack- 
ing, the people kept from discontent as much as possible, 
and, at the same time, he was compelled to deal with three 
governors of different types in one year. 1 At times he was 
obliged to have recourse to his own personal credit to pro- 

i Governors Nash, Burke, and Martin, the latter filling Burke's place 
when he was captured by Fanning. 

10 James Spritnt Historical Monograph. 

vide the supplies which were absolutely necessary for the 
army. His difficulties were increased by the tax which the 
legislature of 1781 laid. It was in brief: 

"Bach and every inhabitant of this State shall for every 
hundred pounds value of their taxable property (money and 
interest excepted) contribute and pay to the commissioner of 
his respective county one peck of corn, or half a peck of 
wheat, or one peck of rye or half a peck of clean rice or two 
and a half pounds of good fresh pork, or one and a half 
pounds of good salted pork, or four pounds of good fresh 
beef." The collecting officers were authorized to distrain 
double the amount in the case of a refusal or neglect to bring 
the specific article to the appointed places. The next year it 
was increased to one bushel^ of corn or ten pounds of pork. 
Like all taxes of the kind, it was doomed to failure in spite 
of strenuous efforts to collect it. Governor Johnston later 
said that it was "the most oppressive and least productive 
tax ever known in North Carolina." Davie was opposed to 
it, but it must be remembered that through this tax and the 
efforts of Davie in its collection, the State fed not onl} T its 
own troops but also those of Virginia. And failure to pro- 
cure supplies at this time would have probably meant the 
failure of the American cause. In 1782 the General Assmbly 
abolished the offices of commissary and quartermaster. Gov- 
ernor Martin wrote Davie that he regretted that he found it 
his duty to dismiss them. Davie replied, "I am sorry your 
Excellency should feel a pang on that subject, as they have 
already dismissed themselves. No man would desire to con- 
tinue in a service where they reap no recompense but 
reproach for their most active and zealous exertions." Davie 
continued in his office until the close of the war and then 
demanded a strict auditing of his accounts which, in spite of 
the great volume of business of the office, the difficulties in 
the way of business methods, and .Davie's lack of prepara- 
tion for such work, proved perfectly satisfactory. 

Colonel Davie now resumed the practice of law and in 1783 

William Richardson Davie. 11 

went on his first circuit. About the same time he married 
Miss Sarah Jones, a daughter of General Allen Jones. He 
also fixed upon Halifax as his place of residence. This town 
was, at that time, one of the most important in the State a.nd 
was more entitled to be considered the capital than any 
other, for the General Assembly met there frequently* and it 
was the scene of nearly all executive business. Davie's prac- 
tice soon became immense. He was a brilliant and forceful 
speaker and combined with this a capacity for hard "work in 
preparing- a case that made him a most effective and power- 
ful advocate. Judge Murphey, who knew him and had 
heard him, said, "Davie took Lord Bolingbroke for his 
model, and applied himself with so much diligence to the 
study of his master that literary men could easily recognize 
his lofty and flowing style. He was a tall elegant man in 
person, graceful and condescending in his manners. His 
voice was mellow and adapted to the expression of ever}' pas- 
sion. His style was magnificent and flowing. He had a 
greatness of manner in public speaking which suited his 
style and gave his speeches an imposing effect. He was a 
laborious student and arranged his discourses with care, and, 
when the subject suited his genius, poured fourth a torrent 
of eloquence that astonished and delighted his audience. 
They looked upon him with delight, listened to his long, har- 
monious periods, caught his emotions; and indulged that 
ecstacy of feeling which fine speaking and powerful elo- 
quence can alone produce. He is certainly to be ranked 
among the first orators whom the American nation has pro- 

Davie by no means confined his practice to his own imme- 
tnediate section of the State. He was already well known in 
the West from his former residence in Salisbury and his later 
military service in that portion of the State, and to his mili- 
tary reputation he speedily added even a greater one in the 
law\ His successful management of several important cases 
made his services in demand throughout the State and he 

12 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph. 

"practiced in all of the seven judicial districts 1 except that of 
Morganton which was the most western of them and also the 
largest though most sparsely settled. In his practice Davie 
did not confine himself to either branch of law. In every 
civil case of importance he appeared, and it is said, probably 
with truth, that during- the whole period he was at the bar, 
some fifteen years, not a capital case was tried in North Car- 
olina in which he did not appear for the defence. His con- 
temporaries, too, were far from being- mediocre, for among 
them may be mentioned the names of James Iredell and 
Alfred Moore, both destined for the Supreme Bench of 
the United States, Francis Xavier Martin, later to be chief 
justice of Louisiana, Judge John Haywood, later of Tennes- 
see, and for a short time, William Hooper and Archibald 
MacLaine. Of these the ablest and consequently Davie's 
chief rivals were Moore and Haywood. Judge Murphey says 
that the public could not reach any conclusion as to which 
was the abler — Davie or Moore. 

Among the notable cases in which Davie appeared was 
that of Colonel Bryan, a Tory, who was tried for treason at 
Salisbury in 1782. Davie assisted in his defense at the risk 
of his own popularity, for it was no light thing to side with 
a Tory when public opinion was running so high as it was in 
North Carolina at that time. Bryan was convicted and sen- 
tenced to be hung but was later pardoned. It is also worthy 
of note that, in general, Davie was opposed to harsh meas- 
ures against the Tories, but his opinions and advice were 
not heeded. 

He also appeared in two other cases of such importance 
that they may be mentioned here. In the case of Hamilton 
vs. Eaton it was decided that the treaty of peace between the 
United States and Great Britain repealed the North Carolina 
confiscation act, and in Bayard vs. Singleton it was held that 
the courts had the authority and at the same time the obli- 

1 The districts were as follows: Halifax, New Bern, Wilmington, Eden- 
ton, Hillsboro, Salisbury, and Morganton. 

William Richardson Davie. 13 

g-ation to declare acts of the legislature unconstitutional. 1 
For some years Davie seems to have taken, no part in poli- 
tics, but in 1786 and again in 1787, he represented the borough 
of Halifax in the House of Commons. His reputation as a 
soldier and as a lawer gave him great prominence from the 
first and he soon justified his reputation by the ability he 
displayed. In this first session he took a leading part in the 
debate on the charges brought against the three judges of 
the State, Williams, Spencer and Ashe. 

Much dissatisfaction had been caused in the State by the 
conduct and decisions of the judges and many charges were 
brought against them. It was stated that they were con- 
stantly late at court and that Judges Ashe and Williams 
even failed altogether to attend certain courts. Disputes, too, 
between Judge Spencer and Judge Williams, and in fact, 
between all three, were said to have so delayed the business of 
the courts as to convince those having an interest in cases 
before them, that no judgment would ever be rendered. In 
regard to their official actions the chief things brought 
against them were in relation to the cases of Peter Mallet 
and of Francis Brice and Daniel McNeill, though there were 
many others. In 1783 Mallett had been accused of treason,' 
but had exhibited a pardon from the governor, and the jury 
had decided that his rights as a citizen were thereby 
restored. But in 1784 the court at Hillsboro questioned his 
right to sue and stayed two suits that he had brought until 
they could decide the matter and then delayed nearby a year 
in coming to any conclusion. McNeil and Brice were 
indicted for returning to the State after leaving it to avoid 
punishment for treasonable acts. The court without a trial 
took action against them which practically amounted to a sen- 
tence of banishment. 2 After the charges had been made, the 
matter was referred to a committee on which, among others, 

i These acts are to be found in 1 N. C. Reports, pp. 84 and 42. 
2 The details of this matter may be found in the State Records, xvin 
pp. 421-429, 477-483. 

14 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph. 

were Maclaine, Davie, Hooper, and Spaight. The report of 
the committee was adverse to the judges but the committee 
of the two houses decided that the judges had not been 
guilty of any malpractice in office and this report was con- 
curred in by the Commons. Davie entered a protest against 
the concurrence but the s} T mpathies of the House were with 
the judg-es and a resolution was passed which practically 
expressed full approval of their acts. 

At this same session Davie was chosen a lieutenant colonel 
of the State militia, a position which he held for many years 

On January 6th, 1787, Caswell, Martin, Davie, Spaight, 
and Willie Jones were elected as delegates to the Philadel- 
phia Convention of 1787. Of these, Caswell, Martin, and 
Jones were State Rights men. The language of the act of 
appointment, however, showed the influence of the conserva- 
tives. Jones declined to accept and Hugh Williamson 
replaced him by the governor's appointment. To fill his own 
place Caswell chose William Blount. This appointment 
changed the complexion of the delegation, for both William- 
son and Blount were conservatives and Martin thus remained 
the only radical. 

The Federal Convention opened May 25th. Four of the 
delegation, including Davie, were present. Blount, who was 
absent, soon appeared and completed the State's representa- 
tion. Owing to the comparative lack of knowledge of the 
deliberations of the body, we know but little of Davie's part 
in its debates and workings. But from the debates as pre- 
served by James Madison we find that he favored the Presi- 
dent's being elected for a long term and then 
being ineligible for reelection, and when that failed, 
that he insisted upon his being liable to im- 
peachment for misdemeanors in office. Through his 
influence North Carolina finally sided with the smaller 
States and gave the deciding vote for equal representation of 
the States in the Senate. He also brought his delegation to 

William Richardson Davie. 15 

his view that Senators should be elected by the State legis- 
latures. The government was, he said, partly State and 
partly national and "ought in some respects to operate on 
the States, in others on the people." It is interesting- to 
know that his first idea of the Senate was that it should rep- 
resent property. When the debate on the basis of represen- 
tation came, Davie saw that there was an effort to reduce the 
representation from the South and at once gave the Conven- 
tion warning- that North Carolina would never confederate 
on any terms that did not rate the slaves at least three-fifths 
of the federal population. He ended his speech as follows: 
"If the Eastern States therefore, mean to exclude them alto- 
gether, the business is at an end." 

Just before the Convention adjourned, Davie went home to 
attend the fall courts and consequently did not sign the Con- 
stitution. Had he been there he would undoubtedly have 
done so, and in North Carolina he at once threw himself into 
the struggle to secure its ratification. With James Iredell 
he wrote a defence of the Constitution which was scattered 
over the State. The chief opponent of the new government 
was his wife's uncle, Willie Jones. The Federalists, as 
they were soon called, had but little hope of ratification at 
the time, but they hoped by the debates in the State conven- 
tion to influence the people for the future in favor of the 
Constitution. It is to Iredell and Davie that the State owes 
the preservation of the debates at Hillsboro in 1788, for they 
prepared them for publication and bore the major part of the 
expense. 'But they thereby erected a lasting memorial of 
their ability and eloquence. If James Iredell was, as it is 
said, the most conspicuous figure in the body, Davie was 
a close second to him and of the latter much was expected by 
his opponents. Porter of Halifax, alluding to him, said, "I 
expect that very learned argument and powerful oratory will 
be displayed on this occasion. I expect that great cannon 
from Halifax will discharge great fireballs among us." 
Davie and Spaight as members of the Federal Convention 

16 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

spoke frequently explaining- and defending- the' Constitution. 
But their efforts were unavailing- ag-ainst the great State 
Rights majority, and ratification failed by a majority of 
one hundred. 

The Federalists were not -greatly discourag-ed and con- 
tinued the struggle with such success that another conven- 
tion of the State w T as called by the next Genereral Assemblv 
to meet in Fayetteville, though not until November, 1789. 
In spite of the great change of sentiment in the State since 
the last convention, we find Davie, at the time it met, seri- 
ously in doubt if ratification could be secured. But the Fed- 
eralist leaders had shown that, while favoring the ratifica- 
tion of the Constitution, they regarded it as a compact 
between the States, and this had robbed the opposition lead- 
ers of their strongest argument. So the convention on 
Davie's motion promptly ratified the Constitution and 

Davie was not only a member of this body, but had, in 
the meantime, been elected to the House of Commons. This 
also met in Fayetteville in November and there, on November 
12th, he introduced the bill for the establishment of the Uni- 
versity of North Carolina. He was an earnest advocate of 
the education of the young and had already had much to do 
with the establishment of the Warrenton Academy and was 
at the head of its board of trustees. Through his influence 
the University bill was passed in December and he became 
one of the first board of trustees. Judge Murphey was pres- 
ent at the debate on the bill and says, "Though more than 
thirty years have since elapsed I have the most vivid recol- 
lection of the greatness of his manner and the power of his 
eloquence on that occasion." Not every able man seeing the 
greatness of the plan would have dared to urge it upon the 
legislature and secure its passage, for by many it was 
regarded as class legislation and there was great fear also of 
an increase in taxes. But so much the more honor to him, 
not only for his far-seeing vision, but also for his courage. 

William Richardson Davie. 17 

He was very active in the work which resulted in the site 
being- chosen, endowment raised, professors elected, and a 
proper course of study being- outlined. His plan of the 
course which was employed after some years was an elective 
system much like the one employed today. He was an early 
benefactor to the library, realizing- the importance of that 
institution. On October 12th, 1 1793, as Grand Master of 
Masons, which position, by the way, he held for , seven consec- 
utive years, from 1792 to 1799, he laid the cornerstone of the 
"Old East" building- at Chapel Hill, and in 1798, in the same 
capacity, he laid the cornerstone for the South Building-. 
In many wavs, by numerous acts of service, did he show his 
deep interest in the }'oung and struggling institution, and 
well does he deserve the title given him by the trustees 
as early as 1810, "The Father of the University/' 2 In 1811 
the University conferred upon him the honorary degree of 
LL.D., the first in its history. 

Davie was ag-ain a member of the House of Commons in 
1791. 1793, 1794, 1796, and 1798. When North Carolina ratified 
the Federal Constitution, President Washing-ton offered him 
a position as district judge but he declined. He wrote Iredell 
that thoug-h he was anxious to escape from "our d-d Judges,'' 
the salary was so poor that he could not afford it. 

In 1791 the legislature elected him as one- of the commis- 
sioners to settle the boundary between North and South Car- 
olina and he was chosen for the same purpose in 1796 and 
in 1803. But the question was not settled until some years 
later. He was during all this time taking- an active and 
prominent part in State affairs. He proposed a digest of the 
State laws and James Iredell, at his sugg-estion, was 
appointed to do the work. It was throug-h his influence 
largely, that the territory forming the State of Tennessee 
was ceded by North Carolina to the United States. In the 

1 October 12th is observed by the University as "University Day." 

2 On the campus a fine old popular, one of the original forest, is known 
as the "Davie Poplar." 

18 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

meantime he did not neglect his law practice which was still 
great. Nor did he confine his attention exclusively to poli- 
tics and the law, for he was always fond of agriculture and 
devoted much of his time to his fine plantation in Halifax 
county. He was instrmental in procuring a charter to drain 
Lake Scuppernong and his company was granted the title to 
all the land below low water mark. This plan, it is needless 
to say, failed. 

He still had an active interest in military affairs and was 
still an officer in the militia. In 1794, when indications 
pointed to a war with France, Governor Spaight appointed 
him major general of the Third State Division. In 1797, 
when by order of Congress, North Carolina raised a force of 
7,000 men, Governor Ashe put Davie in command. The next 
year the crisis had become so acute that the United States 
commenced the embodiment of an army and Washington was 
placed in command. President Adams appointed Davie a 
brigadier general and Washington left it to him to make 
appointment of officers for North Carolina. During this time 
Davie prepared a manual of cavalry tactics which were 
adopted by the State. These appointments show somewhat 
the light in which he was regarded as a soldier both at home 
and abroad. 

In the winter of 1798 he returned to the General Assembly, 
and was by that body elected governor of the State over Ben- 
jamin Williams. He did not serve out his term, however, 
for during the following summer, President Adams appointed 
him to replace Patrick Henry, who had declined on account 
of ill health, 1 as a member of the embassy to France then 
under the government of the Directory. In September he 
resigned the the office of Governor. Benjamin Williams was 
chosen at the next election and the State was thus thrown 
into the hands of the Republicans. While Davie was gov- 
ernor the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were adopted 
and copies were sent to all the States. Davie took the 

l Patrick Henry died June 5th, 1799. 

William Richardson Davie. 19 

ground that the Union was more in danger than the rights of 
the States and used his influence successfully against any 
favorable action of the legislature upon them. 1 

In November, with his colleagues William Vans- Murray, 
the minister to the Hague, and Oliver Ellsworth, the Chief 
Justice of the Supreme Court, he sailed from Newport on the 
frigate United States. 

After a long and roundabout voyage they arrived in France 
and reached Paris early in March. By this time the Consu- 
late had come into power and Napoleon was First Consul. 
On April 8th he received them with great courtesy but nego- 
tiations were delayed by his going to Italy, and the treaty 
was not signed until the end of September. The envoys 
were entertained much during this time and were the objects 
of much attention from those in power. Davie's secretary, 
Mr. Littlejohn, in speaking of him, said, "A man of his im- 
posing appearance and dignified deportment could not fail to 
attract especial attention and remark wherever he went. I 
could not but remark that Bonaparte, in addressing the 
American legation at his levees, seemed for a time to forget 
that Davie was second in the mission, his attention being 
more frequently directed to him." Davie found France agree- 
able to him in every way. He was a man of great culture 
and versatility, and was an accomplished linguist, so it can 
be readily understood that his stay in Paris was a charming 

At the close of the negotiations, he returned to North Car- 
olina, and upon his arrival was urged to run for Congress. For 
business reasons he felt compelled to decline as did he when 
in 1801 Jefferson placed him at the head of a commission to 
negotiate with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek 
Indians. But in 1892, the President appointed him to nego- 
tiate with the Tuscaroras and he accepted and a treaty was 
concluded with them. 

The next year his party again urged him to run for Con- 

iWagstaif, State Rights and Political Parties in North Carolina, p. 37. 

20 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

gress, Willis Alston, the sitting- member, having- deserted the 
the Federalist faith. Davie consented but refused to canvass 
the district, thus making- a doubtful contest a certain one — of 
his own defeat. His unswerving- Federalism, his opposition to 
Jefferson and his luxurious habits and leaning- toward aris- 
tocracy, which was by no means the most ineffective argu- 
ment against him, were brought forward with fatal effect and 
he was defeated. Disg-usted with politics and his life sad- 
dened by the recent loss of his wife, he decided to leave 
North Carolina. In November, 1805, he removed to a "Tiv- 
oli,"* a large estate he owned on the Catawba River in South 
Carolina, where he spent the rest of his life in luxurious 
retirement, entertaining- numerous friends and acquaintances 
and devoting much time to agriculture, and was the founder 
and first president of the South Carolina Agricultural Soci- 

In 1813, during- the second war with Great Britain, Presi- 
dent Madison appointed him a major general in the United 
States army and his nomination was confirmed by the Sen- 
ate. But his taste for battle was past and he declined. His 
last years passing- peacefully and happily, he died November 
29th, 1820. He was buried at Waxhaw Church, Lancaster 
county, South Carolina, and above him cut deep in stone is 
the following well-deserved tribute: 

In this grave are deposited the remains of 


The Soldier, Jurist, Statesman, and Patriot. 

In the Glorious War for 


He fought among- the foremost of the Brave. 

As an advocate of the Bar, 

He was dilig-ent, sagacious, zealous, 

Incorruptibly Honest, of Commanding- Eloquence, 

In the Leg-islative Hall 

v He had no superior in enlarg-ed vision 

And profound plans of Policy. 

Williaw. Richardson Davie. 21 

Single in his ends, varied in his means, indefatigable 

In his exertions, 

Representing his Nation in an important Embassy, 

He evinced his characteristic devotion to her interests 

And manifested a peculiar fitness for Diplomacy. 

Polished in manners, firm in action, 

Candid without imprudence, wise above deceit, 

A true lover of his Country, 

Always preferring the People's good to the People's favor, 

Though he disdained to fawn for office, 

He filled most of the stations to which ambition might aspire, 

And declining no Public Trust, 

Ennobled whatever he accepted 

By true Dignity and Talent 

Which he brought into the discharge of its functions. 

A Great Man in an age of Great Men, 

In life he was admired and beloved by the virtuous and the wise 

In death he has silenced calumny and caused envy to mourn. 

He was born in Edinburg 1 1756, 

And died in South Carolina in 1820. 

General Davie was survived by six children, three sons and 
three daughters, and through them he has numerous descend- 

In 1836 a new county, formed from Rowan, was named for 

Prom the narration of the leading facts of his life, it is 
evident that he was a great man and that he was so regarded 
by his contemporaries; But the question arises, what of his 
personality? What sort of man was he in his private life? 
These questions are difficult to answer. Such letters of his 
as are preserved are utterly impersonal, and yet he seemed to 
be united by close ties of friendship with many of his asso- 
ciates. It is probable that as a rule he was very reserved even 
to his intimates, but it is doubtful if he was as cold in nature 

1 A mistake. 

22 James Sf runt Historical Monograph. 

as he had the reputation of being - . The fire of his oratory 
would contradict that. In appearance he was very tall with 
fine features and eyes full of fire. His voice was resonant, 
yet melodious and capable of every inflection, and his speeches 
were distinguished for their fiery eloquence. While he was 
an able debater, he won more through oratory than argument. 
In education and taste far above the generality of his hearers, 
he frequently talked "over their heads." This, however, did 
not prevent his speeches from always being enjoyed. To 
quote Judge Murphey again: "In the House of Commons he 
had no rival, and upon all great questions which came before 
that body, his eloquence was irresistible." He was very 
proud and would not consent to stoop to g-ain popular favor and 
he resented criticism of his tastes and habits as an infringe- 
ment of his personal independence. Deeply infected with the 
infidelity prevalent at the time, he never was in any sense a 
religious man, but on the other hand his code of morals was 
very severe and no word was ever spoken against his private 
character. On all occasions he bore himself with dignity, 
tempered with cordialit}^ to his friends and by "them was 
greatly honored and beloved. The following extract from a 
letter to Dr. Burke in 1782 throws a little light on his tastes: 
"My happiness, though ver} 7 complete on Thursda} 7 last, 
would have been more so by the presence of some of my absent 
friends. I should have felt a singular satisfaction in seeing 
you unlaced from the cares of State, 

'Mingling o'er the friendly bowl 
The feast of reason and the flow of soul'." 

His love of reading had caused him to collect a large library 
and his collection of letters and papers was very large. Some 
of these were destroyed by his son, but it remained for the 
devastating horde of Sherman to scatter the rest along the 
banks of the Catawba and add another chapter to their chron- 
icle of destruction. 

In a final estimate, Davie must rank well with all of his 

William Richardson Davie. 23 

contemporaries in America. In ability as a soldier, as a 
lawyer, and as a statesman, he may be placed very high. Also 
in the things he accomplished, he stands far above other 
North Carolinians of his time, and to many he would seem to 
be the greatest son, though an adopted one, of the State. 


Halifax, December 16, 1792. 
My Dear Sir 

I returned yesterday from Newbern, having- deferred 
acknowledging your letters of the 6th and 20th of last month 
from that place, as you would hear as early from this. 

When I g-ot to Newbern the 30th of November I found your 
name standing- on the list of candidates for the appointment 
of Senator. x Martin, 2 Leig-h and 3 Blount were also 

John Steele, to whom this letter was written, was a citizen of Salisbury, 
son of Mrs. Elizabeth Steele, who aided General Greene in a perilous 
time by the gift of a bag of silver dollars. He was a Representative in 
Congress, Comptroller of the Treasury 1796-1802, State Senator and Com- 
missioner for demarking the line between the two Carolinas. 

1 Alexander Martin of Guilford, born in New Jersey, removed to Vir- 
ginia, thence to Guilford County; member of the General Assembly 1774 
and 1775 In 1776, was Colonel of a regiment, was at the battles of 
Brandywine and Germantown; was in the General Assembly 1779 to 1782 
inclusive. He was Speaker of the Senate; Governor of the State 1782-84 
and again 1789-93. He was a good patriotic man and a friend of the 
University, notwithstanding he wrote poetry which was doggerel. 
Although acquitted by Court Martial the Federalists continued to charge 
that he crept into a hollow log at Germantown. 

2 John Leigh, member of the House of Commons for years from Edge- 

3Thomas Blount, brother of Senator Wm. Blouut and John Gray 
Blount; settled in Tarboro; Representative in Congress 1803-09, 1811-12 
and 1821-23. He married the daughter of General Jethro Sumner, whose 
name, Jacky Sullivan, she changed to Mary Sumner. Blount died at 
Washington and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery. He was a 
Commissioner to locate the Capital and Blount street is named for him, 

Letters. 25 

announced, 'Lenoir was put up for Chief Magistrate, and 
when I arrived, a strang-e coalition had taken place between 
the friends of Lenoir and Leigh, with the heterogeneous 
assistance of Martin's; the object of all was to diminish your 
strength — The first ballot was a mere essay; the two Dis- 
tricts of Cape Fear voting intentionally for none of the 
candidates; — on the 2nd and third ballots these two Districts 
voted generally for you with Halifax District, and a few 
friends about Salisbury. Leigh withdrew his name and 
Mr. Blount then engrossed his 32 votes, this carried him a 
little ahead; he had 31 before you stood 49 and 52 — during 
this time nothing could equal the activity and scandalous 
behavior of several of Martin's friends (as was reported to 
me) not willing to step-forward openly themselves. He 
found a proper tool in your friend 2 M. Stokes, you know his 
talents and principles. He first secretly, than as it became 
necessary, openly charged you with deception and duplicity in 
your public character, supporting it by the relation of what 
he called a. fact viz. "the writing of two letters to two differ- 
ent men, containing different principles and contradictory 
assertions, fashioning yourself on the political complection of 
your correspondents. There was nobody who could contra- 
dict it, and be asserted it with a degree of confidence which 
gave it credit and currency. He declared himself the 
confidential depository of your political views and principles, 
that they were all aristocratical, etc., etc., nay that you was 

l William Lenoir. Born in Virginia, 20th of May, 1751 (O. S.), raised 
in Edgecombe Co., N. C. Lieutenant in Rutherford's expedition against 
the Cherokees; Captain at King's Mountain; Major General of Militia 
after the Revolution; President of the State Senate; First President of the 
Board of Trustees of the University; last survivor of the Charter Trustees; 
died 1839. A county and town are named for him. 

2Montford Stokes, of Wilkes Co.; Superior Court Clerk of Rowan 
County; Principal Clerk of the Senate; Senator of the United States, 
1816-23; State Senator and Commoner; Governor of the State, 1830-31 
Indian Agent in Arkansas, died 1842. 

26 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph. 

the devoted of "Hamilton. Martin's friends 

made a most illiberal use of these reports, and every ballot 
g-ained more or less ground; so completely had that wretch 
poisoned the minds of the Edenton members, that they could 
not be gotten even to examine them with any patience; (he 
lodg-ed in the same house with them). Between the 4th and 
last ballot, the Cape Fear people were shaken by the threats 
of Martin's party with respect to the interest of Fayette, a 
meeting took place among- the Western Members, in which 
this threat had its effect, and Martin prevailed. Your friends 
the made their last effort to serve you, that was by keeping 
Martin out, he was however elected by a small majority. 

2 Caldwell, 3 Dixon and 4 Beard were zealous and active in 
your interest, old 3 Matthews I believe dealt doubly by you, 
the Salisbury and Morg-an votes for } t ou would not have 

exceeded 8 or 9. They left no stone unturned, urg-ed 

your want of age, not being 30 — your resignation as they 
called it, was blazoned into, a crime and made great use of — 
they bestowed upon it the epithets of "vain, pompous, 
arrog'ant," etc., etc. Altho' my friend these things are false, 
I know they will be unpleasant, yet it is essential that you 
should know them. I have therefore detailed them in their 
orig-inal form, I did not hear Stokes assert these things for 
he carefully avoided me every where, but every person men- 

lAlexander Hamilton, an ardent advocate of a strong government and 
very unpopular with the Jeffersonian Republicans of North Carolina. 

2David Caldwell, Senator from Iredell County, probably an uncle of 
Judge David F. Caldwell, whose father's name was Andrew. 

3 Joseph Dixon, Senator from Lincoln: Major at King's Mountain, 
afterwards Colonel. After the war General of Militia and Representative 
in Congress. 

4Lewis Beard, often Commoner from the borough of Salisbury and 
afterwards Senator from Rowan. The name is probably the same as 

oMusentine (or Mussendine) Matthews, eleven times a Commoner from 
Iredell; was Speaker of the House; was also a Commissioner to run the 
dividing line between North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Letters. 27 

tioned them, and he was publicly taxed with them as 
falsehoods by }^our friends. 

Edenton becoming- entirely detached from you, in the 
manner I have stated, Mr. Blount taking- of course Newbern 
and a part of Halifax Districts, while Martin remained so 
powerful in the West-country, and Cape Fear ready to sacri- 
fice everything- for "Fayette, it became utterly impossible to 
effect vour election. Mr. Blount and his friends behaved 
toward you with great decency and candor, for this reason 
and the purpose I mentioned 16 of your friends voted for him 
on the last ballot. I was damnably mortified it is true, on 
seeing- that despicable creature prevail over you, and I felt for 
the disgrace and degradation of my country, but every thing- 
is not possible at all times in politics. I am strongly 
inclined to fatalism of late, and have believed for some time 
that God almighty made that man on purpose to disgrace his 

As to the business of the 2 Klectors it was done among the 
members of Assembly and nearly settled when I g-ot down, 
The manner of doing- business in the Senate would make men 
suspect the Messiah. They will never trust any man there 
twice if they can help it. 

The last term of our Federal Circuit Court was lost 
by the non-attendance of any of the Associate Justices. This 
circumstance gave considerable dissatisfaction, and has 
brought the Court into some discredit. 

We suffer very much here by the quantity of 3 clip'd gold in 

i Fayette, or Fayetteville, worked strenuously to secure the location of 
the Capital. The Cape Fear valley and the country west of it favored 
Fayetteville, but the valleys of the Roanoke, Tar and Neuse won the 

2 As North Carolina did not join the Union until November 1789 she 
did not participate in the first election for President. For the second 
election the General Assembly directed the members of that body from 
the counties comprising each judicial district to choose the Presidential 

3Davie speaks of foreign coins. Our coinage began in 1792. . 

28 James Sprimt Historical Monograph. 

circulation, every man who takes it by tale is obliged to be 
cheated. I hope some measures will be taken to remedy this 

I hope it will not be forgotten that we have a great quan- 
tity of paper afloat, 'Haywoods, the late emission etc., etc. 
Mr. 2 Taylor had introduced a resolution to instruct you not 
to assume our paper money. I have not heard its fate. 
Adieu my friend, let hear from you soon. 
I am with great respect 

and attachment 
My best respects to Yours, etc. 

Mr. Macon and Mr. 3 G ■ Wixuam R. DaviK. 

To Honorable John Steele, Esq., 

4 Mr. Benehan's, July 22nd, '95 
My Dear Sir, 

I regret exceedingly the various causes which produced 

1 John Haywood was Treasurer of North Carolina, 1787 to 1827. The 
State paper, called bills of credit, issued during the Revolutionary war, 
was virtually repudiated, as only $1.00 in good money was offered for 
$800 in bills After the war new issues were voted from time to time. 
The Constitution of the United States forbids such issues by the States. 

2John Taylor was United States Senator from Virginia, Caroline 

3Mr. G. was Wm. Barry Grove, of Fayetteville, Member of Con- 

4Mr. Bennehan (Richard), of Petersburg, was selected by Mr. Wm. 
Johnston, a rich merchant of Hillsboro, to take charge of his country 
store on Flat River. By strict integrity, intelligence and good manage- 
ment, as well as by marriage, he accumulated a large estate, which de- 
scended to his son, Thomas D. and daughter Rebecca, who married Judge 
Duncan Cameron. As Thomas D. never married, Mrs. Cameron ulti- 
mately inherited the whole. Richard Bennehan, and after him, Thomas 
D. , lived on the road between Hillsboro and Raleigh and dispensed a 
bountiful hospitality. Both were Trustees and benefactors of the Uni- 

Letters. 29 

*your absence from the board. However as the Arabs say 
"God would have it so and man must submit", under misfor- 
tunes like yours there is no comfort, because nothing- can be 
substituted, the only resource for the human mind in such 
cases js in a kind of philosophic fortitude, the calm result of 
time, reason and reflection. 

The Business which occupied the board, exclusively of the 
Examination, I suppose 2 Glasgow has shown you, and also 
deposited with you the Journal- -some of the objects of your 
letter were acted upon as you will perceive by those papers — 
the Board of Trustees sat so constantly that the building- 
Corn, could do no business. 

3 Patterson became extremely clamorous to be paid for his 
extra work, the Board being- pressed on this Head took it up; 
but his charg-es were found so excessively exorbitant, and 
his work so infamously done, that they referred it ag-ain to 
the Commissioners, I verily believe he has charg-ed six or 
seven prices for the painting-, the rest of the work is on the 
same ratio. 

4 Mr. Hopkin's bill to my astonishment was almost as bad, 
so nothing- was done in that either. 

I am very desirous that we should close our accounts before 
the meeting- of the next board, at least so far as reg-ards the 

iThis letter was written to Treasurer John Haywood, who was one of 
the Commissioners to select the site of the University. He was a Trustee 
and on the Building Oommittee. He had recently lost his first wife, and 
it is interesting to see what consolation a free-thinker could offer. 

2Glasgow, who acted as Secretary at the meeting of the Board, was 
Secretary of State, having held the office since 1776 by elections. He 
was a militia officer in the Revolutionary war, and so popular that a 
county was named in his honor. He was found to have been engaged 
with others in defrauding the State in the issue of land warrants, was 
tried and convicted, then settled in Tennessee. The county's name was 
changed to Greene in 1799. 

3Patterson (James) was a Chatham man. He built the Old East and 
the President's house, now Prof. Gore's. 

4Hopkins (Samuel) built Person Hall. 

30 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

principal building - , the President's House and the Steward's 
— and hope it will be in jour power to have our journal 
brought up and an account stated. 

Serious and I believe well-grounded complaints are made 
against the conduct of the "Steward; I have written fully to 
2 Mr. Kerr and also to 3 Harris on this subject, whether this 
will have any effect I know not; these Gentlemen did. not 
think proper to mention it when the board was sitting altho' 
they had. given assurance to the students that they would 
certainly do so. 

The students, every thing considered, acquitted themselves 
well, but the next examination will be a better test of the 
capacity and the attention of the professors. They will soon 
suffer very much for want of rooms and an expedient was 
adopted to give temporary relief from this mischief; by 
building a house for a grammar school with three or four 
lodging rooms. 

iThe Steward, John Taylor, (called Back T.), was a Revolutionary sol- 
dier, a plain farmer. It was natural that his culinary knowledge was 
limited, and not suited to the tastes of Allen and Hyder Ali Davie, whose 
father's wealth could command the best cooks in the land. 

2David Ker (as he wrote his name) was the Presiding Professor, a 
Scotch Irishman, educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a Presby- 
terian preacher at Fayetteville, when elected — was very capable but 
imbibed infidel notions and lost his place, became a Judge in the Missis- 
sippi Territory, by appointment of Jefferson. 

^Charles Wilson Harris was a native of Cabarrus, graduate with high 
honors at Princeton, was first Tutor, then Professor of Mathematics in the 
University of North Carolina, then Presiding Professor. He settlod at 
Halifax, had promise of an eminent career, but died of consumption at an 
early age. 

4The grammar school was in what was then woods, to the north of the 
village, not far from the Foxhall (Vauxhall) Spring. It was abandoned 
by the University about 1820. A squatter, Peyton Clements, the last of 
the old time hunters, took possession of it and held it with his family 
about twenty years, when it went into ruins. The school was once well 
patronized. Some of the best men of the State were prepared by it for the 

Letters. 31 

The papers you enclosed to me I lodged with 'Mr. Alves so 
that they can be had at any time. 

Please let me know whether a receipt is necessary to you 
for Preand's money forwarded with your last letter. 

Adieu, let me hear from you, and be assured no man has a 
more sincere interest in your happiness than 


W. R. Davik. 

P. S. I set out for Halifax tomorrow. 

Halifax, Pebry. 26th, '97 
Dear Sir, 

I feel myself greatly indebted to you for your obliging- 
attention to my boys, and beg you to accept my thanks. 

The. subject of conferring 3 degrees has been attended with 

i Alves (Walter) was Treasurer of the University. He was a son of 
James Hogg, who had the names of his boys changed to their mother's by 
legislative enactment. He married Amelia Johnston, daughter of a Hills- 
boro merchant, who owned shares in the Transylvania Company. Hence 
Alves removed to Henderson in Kentucky, the chief settlement of the col- 

2The chief business transacted by the Board of Ttustees at this meeting 
was the adoption of regulations for the government of attorneys and for 
collecting the dues of those who had bought confiscated . land on credit. 
This proved to be a source of odium to the institution. 

The completion of the buildings began and the erection of the Grammar 
School were provided for. Apparatus and books were ordered to be pur- 

Advertisement in the North Carolina Gazette for a Steward was ordered. 
Other business of a routine character was transacted. 

4From 1876 the University conferred the degree of Artium Baccalau- 
rens (A.B.) for a course including both Latin and Greek; Philosophiae 
Baccalaurens (Ph B.) for one including Latin or Greek; and Bachelor of 
Science (B.S.) where neither classic .was studied. Recently the faculty 
decided to grant A. B. for every course. From 1804 to 1876 this degree 
was granted only when both classics were studied. In 1854 the degree of 
B.S. was added but not Ph.B. It is remarkable that Davie's Plan of 
Education should have been so far ahead of his time. 

32 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph. 

some difficulty, and difference of opinion, and this difficulty 
has been occasioned principally by the variation of our plan 
of education from that of other colleges or Universities. A 
Bachelor's degree generally imports a knowledge of the 
learned languages as well as the sciences, to confer such a 
degree upon a person who understood neither Latin or Greek 
does not appear to be proper. The ruling or leading prin- 
ciple in our plan of education is, that the student may apply 
himself to those branches of learning and science alone which 
are absolutely necessary to fit him for his destined profession 
or occupation in life, that as you observe "one study does not 
imply the necessity of any other, unless of one which is 
necessary to make it intelligible:" but I am well convinced of 
the utility and policy of conferring degrees, and granting 
special certificates as soon as a general plan can be adopted; 
which I think may be done at the next meeting-; so that those 
entitled to a degree or diploma at the November examination 
might receive them soon afterwards. 

My own mind has not been perfectly made up on this sub- 
ject but I will be obliged to you for your opinion upon the 
following plan. 

That every student who should stand an approved exami- 
nation upon the English language, and such of the Latin or 
Greek classics as are directed to be studied, and the sciences, 
shall receive a Bachelor's degree in the usual form conferred, 
by a diploma in the Latin language, making a knowledge of 
one of the dead languages necessary. 

That the student who shall pass an approved examination 
upon the English language, and the sciences as taught at 
the University should receive a diploma in English certify- 
ing his knowledge and progress of the arts and sciences. 

That those diplomas should be signed by the President and 
some members of the Trustees, as well as the certificate of 
Masters degree, and distinguished as diplomas; that in all 
other cases certificates should be granted by the Principal of 

Letters. 33 

the University, especially stating- the progress of the student 
on application made. 

I am very anxious that my sons should be taught to dance 
well, if you approve of the Master who now offers to teach, 
I wish my sons to be entered by the quarter. There are some 
French Gentlemen at Newbern who teach dancing- in the 
most eleg-ant stile, they are really Gentlemen and unfortu- 
ate refugees from J St. Doming-o, and I intended upon going 
to Newbern to see if one of them could be induced to come 
up and teach the bo} r s, I hope therefore the students will 
only engage with the present master by the quarter. 

I am respectfully yours 

W. R. Davie. 
To Joseph Caldwell, Esquire, 

University of North Carolina. 

Mr. James Hogg, to General Davie. 

June, 1797. 

In my letter by 2 Dr. Hall I acquainted you that all the 
classes under Mr. Caldwell and Mr. 3 Holmes had acquitted 
themselves well, and I think I made particular mention of 
each class: I was not particular I believe about the classes 

iThe insurrection in San Domingo against the French was in 1791 and 
1792. Many wealthy and cultivated planters fled to the United States. 
Afterwards General LeClere was sent to reconquer the island. His army 
was nearly ruined by disease. Napoleon obtained possession of the rebel 
leader, Touqsaint S. Overture, by fraud it is charged, and imprisoned him 
for life in France. General Davie's sons turned out to be elegant men. 

2Dr. Hall was probably Thomas H. Hall, M.D., of Tarboro, afterwards 
a Representative in Congress. 

•*Notes in regard to Hogg, Delvaux and Richards have already been 
given, also about Caldwell. Holmes (Samuel A.) was first Tutor and 
then Professor of Ancient Languages in this University 1796- '98. He 
then became a lawyer and soon afterwards died. 

34 James Sfiriint Historical Monograph. 

in the preparator} T school. My attendance that morning on a 
Board of Trustees and attendance thereafter to the conclud- 
ing examination, from neither of which I could properly 
absent myself, obliged me to break off my writing abruptly 
and Dr. Hall went off immediately when the examination was 
over. I have now set down to make up the defect. 

Mr. Delvaux's classes on Sallust, Caesar, Cor. Nepos, 
Eutropius, and 2 classes on Corderius, seemed to me to be 
taught with accuracy: It is true they had been prepared but 
each student drew by lot, the chapter or section which was 
read. His students also in the French Grammar gave satis- 
faction. He has a class in the Latin Grammar which was 
not examined. 

Mr. Richard's classes on Telemachus and Gil Bias French 
Exercises and Fables and in French Grammar made a satis- 
factory examination. A large class on the common rules of 
Arithmetic and Practice and a large class in English Gram- 
mar in general performed well. — 2 classes of Readers and 
Spellers were examined together, on the forenoon of the 5 
day, when every body had made ready to start as soon as it 
was over. The examination was very superficial, and from 
it I could not form any certain judgment of the care of the 
master or proficiency of the students. Some pieces of their 
writing were also there exhibted. 

From several complaints I have heard and some observa- 
tions of my own, I have been long apprehensive that Read- 
ing, spelling and writing have not been attended to with 
such care as to give general satisfaction. At the same time 
it will be allowed that some boys have made reasonable pro- 
ficiency in their studies. Few men that can do these things 
will submit to the drudgery of teaching reading and spelling. 

There were 62 or 63 bo} T s in the Preparatory School, about 
20 of whom had for some time past, been taught reading and 
spelling by Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Holmes, to give time to 
Mr. Richards to attend to the new French class. 

After having taken under consideration the memorial of 

Letters. 35 

Mr. Caldwell relating- to the misunderstanding between Mr. 
Delvaux and Mr. Richards, the Board authorized the Faculty 
to find an assistant to them till next meeting - . They have in 
view J Robt. Moore who it is thoug-ht, will give the necessary 
assistance for the benefit of free education. — Mr. Caldwell 
has mentioned to me, a Mr. Murphy from Caswell County, I 
think, as properly qualified to fill Mr. Delvaux's place, in 
teaching- the preparatory latin classes. I have a great opin- 
ion of Delvaux's grammatical accuracy. I am afraid it will 
be difficult to meet with his equal in that respect. 

The more I know Mr. Caldwell the more I am pleased with 
him. I think him a respectable character and well qualified 
to fill the Mathematical and Philosophical Chair. — Perhaps 
he has not studied as attentively Moral Philosophy and the 
Belles-lettres, but I believe him possessed of talents suffi- 
cient, to attain to any proficiency in any science that may 
be necessary, and I am very sorry that he has ^notified his 
determination to leave us. He seems to think that his con- 
stitution is too weak, to underg-o the anxiety and fatigue of 
the President's place. At the same time he seems disposed 
to give us time to lookout and provide a successor. 

Mr. 2 Jones told me that he had information from Mr. Col- 
lins in Kdenton, that our semina^ was under disrepute there 
and Mr. 4 Watters just arrived from the North East, says that 
the same opinion prevailed there, and that it was mere neces- 
sity, made thetn send their children from that place. It 

3Mr. Moore (Robert) of Rowan Conuty, stood high iu his classes. 

4"Mr. Jones" is Willie Jones of Halifax, one of the committee to select 
the site of the University. He wielded a wide influence — was a member 
of the Revolutionary Congresses and General Assembly, Chairman of the 
Committee of Safety. Member of the Continental Congress and of the 
State Convention go adopt the Constitution of the United States. 

•^Collins (Josiah) was a wealthy citizen of Eden ton. 

G"Mr. Watters" (Henry) was a lawyer of Hillsboro, one of the attor- 
neys of the University. The "North-east" was the Albemarle country. 

36 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph. 

seems that the} T think meanly of all our teachers. This seems 
to confirm Dr. "McCorkle's observation. 

Mr. Jones was much pleased with our examination and in a 
short but comprehensive speech, hig-hly complimented the 
Teachers and Students. 

He promised to have a publication in the Halifax paper, to 
make known, the great proficiency of the students and the 
promising- aspects of our seminary, which I hope has been 
done. All the papers in the State should be requested to 
republish it. 

Halifax, July 19th, '97. 
2 Dear Sir, 

I received by the last post your letter of the 29th ulto. it is 
necessary for me to mention here, how much and how sin- 
cerely I regret the resolution you have taken, I had hoped 
that your situation would become as agreeable to you as it 
was important to the State. / We are all, however, in pur- 
suit of happiness, and it is not for me either to judge for you, 
or call upon you to make sacrifices which perhaps nothing- 
could compensate; you will observe by the laws it will be 
necessary to notify the President. 

iDr. McCorckle (Samuel E.) was a Presbyterian minister, who had a 
school called Zion-Parnassus six miles west of Salisbury. He was an 
active Trustee, delivered the address at the laying of the corner-stone and 
prepared the first "Plan of Studies." He was elected te but declined the 
office of Presiding Professor. 

2 Joseph Caldwell was born in New Jersey, April 21, 1773, educated at 
Princeton ; Professor of Mathematics in the University of North Carolina 
1796; Presiding Professor for the next year; spoke of resigning but was 
induced to remain on Gillaspie's becoming Presiding Professor; resumed 
that office in 1799; was made President in 1804; exchanged that office for 
the Chair of Mathematics in 1812; again President in 1816; died 
January 24, 1835; was author of a text-book of Geometry, "Letters of 
Carlton," advocating the building of railroads, and other pamphlets, 
especially one in favor of Public Schools. 

Letters. 37 

I am very sorry that a proper spirit of accommodation does 
not appear to exist between Mr. 2 Richards and Mr. 2 Delvaux, 
it seems to me, that in this I may be mistaken, that two 
Tutors are sufficient for the preparatory school without 
exposing- the scholars to any disadvantage; if assistance is 
necessary the mode proposed by Mr. Hogg is certainly the 
most eligible that can be adopted, you can judge with justice 
and precision what these Gentlemen can and ought to do, 
and I beg - you to give me your opinion. — In the mean time, 
as no Board has met, we must leave it to the Faculty to man- 
age the matter in the best manner they are able. 

I was in great hopes that the Board would have met on the 
11th of July so that an ordinance could have passed 
respecting the manner of conferring degrees, and I intended 
to have transmitted the draft of an ordinance for that pur- 
pose. — Should any of the students be prepared to take their 
degrees at the annual Examination, proper measures will be 
taken to remedy any inconvenience that may arise from the 
want of an ordinance to regulate that matter at present, the 
Committee and Faculty will be requested to make the proper 
entry on a Journal for that purpose and grent the candidate 
a certificate accordingly. The Board will take the business 
up the moment they meet, and Diplomas will then be issued 
to those Gentlemen who are entitled to them, this if you 
please you can make known to the Gentlemen of the Senior 

I have conversed with several of the Trustees on this sub- 
ject, and they generally concur in the principles I once stated 
to you on this. subject, which you can also mention if you 
deem it proper. * 

'^Richards came to America as a sailor, deserted, joined a strolling 
players' company. At Warrenton he was employed as an assistant in the 
school of Rev. Marcus George. Then came to the University as Tutor. 
He was highly regarded. Delvaux seems to have been a good man. 
Nothing is known of him. He was probably a refugee from San 
Domingo or a French emigre. 

38 James Sfirunt Historical Monograph. 

I am "sorry that any mistake should have happened respect- 
ing- the money paid for the board of the boys; it shall be 
immediately rectified upon my coming- up in October, in the 
mean time please to complete the payment to the steward or 
arrang-e it with him that he may have no complaint.- — You 
will remember the money was in different papers; and I 
thoug-ht that I had reed, eight pounds from Col. Whitaker of 
Raleig-h, and added forty shilling-s myself to make up the 
ten pounds; in this however I suppose there must have been 
some mistake. 

I am extremely anxious to hear of the result of the Exam- 
ination. Believe me with great respect 

Your mt. obt. 

W. R. Davie. 


Joseph Caldwell, Esquire, 

University of North Carolina. 

Halifax Nov. 14th '97. 
Dear Sir, 

I received yesterday your letter of the 31st ulto. It is not in 
my power to give you all the satisfaction I wish in regard to 
"Mr. Georg-e; I expected to have received an answer from him 
before this time in writing- but none has come to hand, on my 
return we had some desultory conversation respecting- the 
business, but he had positively concluded upon nothing-, and 
appeared rather unwilliug- to leave Warrenton. 

A 2 Mr. Rhea of Virginia, to whom perhaps you was intro- 
duced by Mr. Jones in July last, will be at Raleigh with the 

iRev. Marcus George, a noted classical teacher in Warrenton. He 
declined to accept a chair in the University. 

2 What is here said of Mr. Rhea is about all we know of him. He 
became professor of Ancient Languages iu the University 1806 1814. 

Letters. 39 

intention of offering- for a professorship. I am told he is a 
man about middle age, has been teaching- about six years, 
has a family, and is hig-hly spoken of where he resides. — I 
have never seen him — -I have not a word from Gillespie, every 
effort will be made to procure a proper character, and a man 
who could be a considerable addition to your society. 

Be so good, if I should not have the pleasure of seeing you 
here before I set out for the federal Court, to write to me by 
the "boys. 

I am very respt, yours, 

W. R. Davie. 

P. S. I shall leave this place on the 20th for the Federal 
Court, if you could so arrang-e your matters as to stay or 
spend that time with me here, I would endeavor to render 
the event agreeable to you. 


Joseph Caldwell, Esquire, 

University of North Carolina, 

Halifax, Aug. 21st '96. 
Dear Sir 

I received by the last post your letter of the 19th with the 
enclosure and will proceed to prepare the answer upon 
these documents. 

I should be very sorry should it be really the case that 

iGeneral Davie had two sons in the University in 1795, Allen Jones 
and Hyder Ali, the latter being evidently in the Preparatory Department. 
Neither graduated and after long interruptions we find Hyder Ali a reg- 
ular student as late as 1804. Allen was Major in the War of 1812, and 
his son, Dr. William R. Davie, a surgeon in the Florida war, 1838 His 
grand- daughter, Mary Fraser, was wife of the late Edward McCrady of 
Charleston, a sound lawyer and author of a valuable history of South 
Carolina. A son of Dr. William R. Davie, of the same name, was a Cap- 
tain in the Confederate army. Hyder Ali left one daughter, who mar- 
ried a Bedon and left many descendants. 

40 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

General T Person lost his election owing* to his donation to the 
University — but I am informed that his opponents succeeded 
against him on the charge of nonresidence, this fact was 
true, that his residence in Granville was merely nominal. 

I am very happy that every thing' goes on well at the Uni- 
versity for a thousand reasons, and that certain croakers may 
be disappointed. 

Make my respects to your family and believe me very 


W. R. Davie. 

2 James Hogg, Esquire, 

Hillsborough, North Carolina. 


Dr Sir, 

We were so much engaged, when I had the pleasure of din- 
ing with you, that I forgot to give you the necessary 
directions how to find my house; the plantation being 
covered from any view from the great road by a skirt of 
woods. You will pass at the O.N. ford in preference to the 
ferry, as it is a good ford, 2 miles nearer, and the ferry is 
badly kept. If you cross at the ford get directions at Capt. 

iGeneral Person (Thomas) was prominent as a General of Militia in 
the Revolution and as a member of State Congresses, was a member of 
the Committee that reported the State Constitution. He died at one of 
his plantations in Franklin County. His gift of $1040 in silver dollars for 
finishing "Person Hall," or the "Old Chapel," could hardly have caused 
his defeat. History shows that no odium attached to those who helped 
the University. 

2 James Hogg was a Fayetteville merchant, afterwards moved to Hills- 
boro. He was a Commissioner to select the site, and then to locate the 
buildings, of the University. The Norwoods and Binghams of Orange 
and Huskes of Fayetteville are descended from him. 

3General Davie called his plantation "Tivoli." 

Letters. 41 

Heron's to the mill about a mile from the ford, where you 
will be directed as to the remainder of the road, which is 
easily found, after you pass two forks near the mill; the road 
then most deeply marked by the waggons will bring- you to 
the Lands-ford. When you come within a mile and T /z of my 
house you will probably observe a grave yard, and when you 
come nearly opposite my gate you will observe a road goes 
out to the left hand, which in 200 3<ards brings you to my 
gate; should you pass this fork, you will soon come to a place 
too remarkable to pass your notice, the road from Chester 
Ct.H. and the road from my house, come into the post road 
(which is the one you will travel) exactly at the same place on 
different hands. You have then nothing to do but to turn up 
the road leading to my House, the post is not 250 yds. from 
my gate: You may perhaps observe a good deal of timber 
has been cut nearly opposite to the plantation at different 

My cotton is greatly improved since I left home, as well as 
the corn— rain however is wanting. You observe how 
•strangely things are working in Spain. "The world was 

made for Caesar' 1 Voltaire, with his 'second causes, 

would smile at my superstition but I confess I have no other 
way of accounting for more than half the events within the 
last 15 years. Adieu my best regards to your family and 
believe we with great regards yours etc. 

W. R. Davik. 
General John Steele 


iProfessor H. H. Williams gives the following description of Vol- 
taire's doctrine of "second causes." 

"The theology of the 18th century is called Deism. And the principle 
in this is that God is not now in the affairs of the physical world. 

' 'Then if this is so, any event is the result of inevitable law. And this 
idea applied to human life is Fatalism. Then we lose the great facts of 
Mercy and Personal Care from God. 

"Fatalism appears now sporadically as Materialism." 

In other words Creation is the first cause. All subsequent changes are 
from "second causes" over which we have no control. 

42 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

Catawba, near Lancaster Ct.H. 

September 20th 1800. 
My Dear Sir, 

When I wrote you last I had no certain advices from the 
Eastward, nothing- but general hopes, etc., I am now 
informed that our Eastern brethren h ave decided, and "Gen- 
eral C. Pinckney has consented to become their candidate, 
Delaware comes in also, hope was once entertained from hav- 
ing- Pennsylvania and Maryland; but on what grounds I know 
not, much is expected from South Carolina, but as this must 
depend on the combined and steady efforts of the friends of 
correct principles, all your aid will be wanting, and I am sure 
will not be withheld. Nothing can be done here, nor I sup- 
pose Georgia; and I confess that I do not yet see clearly how 
this important object can be effected. The} 7 seem however to 
be sanguine; and I will write you as I receive informa- 

I am afraid the eager vivacity of the federal printers will 
induce them to exaggerate and excite so much alarm as to 
produce a coalition of the shattered parties of the other side, 
would it not be possible to impose some discretion, some pru- 
dence upon these people, they are continually sounding the 
tocsin of alarm. 

Adieu write me, and let me know what information you 
have; and your prospects. 

Yours sincerely 

W. R. Davie. 
Genl. Steele 


iCharles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina, was Minister to France 
and author of the reply to the French Directory, "Millions for defence, 
not a cent for tribute." He was very popular but the Republicans car- 
ried the election. ^Tohn Adams was the Federalist candidate for the 
Presidency and Pinckney for the Vice-Presidency. Adams had 65 votes in 
the Federal College and Pinckney 64, while Jefferson and Burr secured 73 
each. The trouble following this tie led to a change of the Constitution. 

Letters. 43 

' Feby. 2nd 1801 
John Steele Esq. 

Dear Sir 

I flattered myself with the hope of receiving a letter from 
you that would have developed some of the mysteries of the 
day, you will easily imag-ine how much a man as distant from 
information as I am must be astonished at some thing's, the 
impossibility of reconciling- them with any fixed principles, 
with any connected system of procedure leaves every thing 
merely conjectural. 

My last letters from Congress under date of the 23rd state 
that the Presidential election is as interesting- and as doubt- 
ful as ever, that the Federalists own the destruction of the 
constitution as an event certain under the administration of 
Mr. Jefferson, and as to the administration of Mr. B.,(Burr) 
altho' it may be energ-etic, no man knows what course it may 

I have been visited by a great number of the most enlight- 
ened friends of g-overnment in this part of the country since my 
return, they all express an insuperable repug-nance to the 
election of Burr, urging- his want of character, etc., etc. 
"In my own opinion it is a measure that will sink the feder- 
alists in the opinion of the majority, and in" its operation effect 
the destruction of the Federal party, by becoming responsi- 
ble for an administration they can neither control nor influence, 
and consecrating beyond all doubt Mr. Jefferson in the eyes 
of the people. 

iNotwithstanding the advice of Davie, the Federalists in the House of 
Representatives supported Burr. Eight states, New York, New Jersey, 
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennes- 
see voted for Jefferson. Six states, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and South Carolina for Burr. 
Nine were.uecessary to a choice. Vermont and Maryland were divided, 
Jefferson was nominated on the 36th ballot. The Federalists from Ver- 
moiu withdrew to allow that state to be counted for him. Four Federal- 
ists from Maryland and one from Delaware cast blank ballots. 

44 James Sfrtmt Historical Monograph. 

The present crisis is peculiarly gloomy; under Mr. Jeffer- 
son, it is said, every institution must crumble to dust, in the 
administration of Mr. Burr, no man knows what to expect, of 
course no man has confidence , an alarming- degree of discon- 
tent and disgust pervades every description of society, the 
public spirit appears to be destroyed by party rage, and the 
effects of these domestic evils are increased by party embar- 
rassments; in this situation, where the most consummate pru- 
dence can only make a choice of evils, it appears to me that 
the true policy of the Federalists is to act an open, manly 
and decided part, b}^ yielding at once to the public sentiment, 
with the best possible grace, and placing the painful respon- 
sibility of the future where it ought to be, on the succeeding 
adm in istration . 

The public mind in this quarter is haunted with apprehen- 
sions of dissolution of the Union, etc. pray let me know the 
state of things. 

Enclosed with this is a small package for Mr. "Murray, 
which I would have troubled Mr. 2 Marshall with, but not 
knowing how long he would Secy, of State, I have taken the 
liberty to trouble you with it, and beg you to forward it by 
the first safe conveyance. 

Believe me with great respect and esteem your most obd. 

3 W. R. Davie. 

Halifax Feby. 22d 1801. 
Dear Sir 

The last advices we had respecting the election of a Presi- 

^Murray (William Vau), of Maryland, was colleague of Davie in his 
mission to France. 

2Marshall (John), continued to be Secretary of State until the close of 
John Adams' administration. 

3The letter was addressed to General Steele while Comptroller at Wash- 
ington, D. O. He was continued in the office by Jefferson, but resigned in 
1802, giving as a reason that he did not wish to remove his family to 

Letters. 45 

dent were under date of the 13th when it was said 19 "ballot- 
ings had taken place without any variation or any prospect of 
a decision, the situation of suspense and incertitude has pro- 
duced the most disag-reeable effects in this quarter of the 
Country; the friends of government are seriously alarmed for 
the Union, and the violence of the antifederal party seems to 
have no bounds; resentments created and renewed by repeated 
conflicts have given a stability to certain opinions, and the 
wild frenzy of a demagogue is admired by the mass of the 
people as an effort of the sublimest patriotism and it would 
be difficult to say to what lengths this malignant influence 
would not carry them; I pray you to write to me and let me 
know the real state of things, that I may have it in my power 
to allay in some measure the inquietitude of our friends. 

I" observe the Senate have passed the 2 Judiciary bill, a great 
deal will depend on the appointment of these Judges; they 
ought to be men oi known weight of character, and men of 
active and popular, as well as professional talents; on their 
exertion will depend in a great measure the cause of Federa- 
lism in the Southern States; several circumstances have, you 
know, given a decided bias to the people fn favor of the other 
party, and much exertion and address too will be necessary 
to recover the ground the Federalists have unquestionably 

Do me the favor to appreciate my disappointment in not 
hearing from you by the two last posts, and believe me sin- 


W. R. Davis. 
John Steele, Esquire, 

City of Washington. election, see preceding letter. 

2The Judiciary Act, creating twenty-three new Judges, with clerks 
and other officers, was passed after it was ascertained that the Federalists 
were defeated in the Presidential election. This legislation was naturally 
regarded as an effort to perpetuate the power of the Federalists. There 

46 James S f runt Historical Monograph. 

Halifax, Aug-. 3rd 1801 
My dear Sir. 

I received by the post on Saturday }^our favor of the 26th 
ult., and congratulate } t ou upon being again "once more 
under your own humble roof, which, b}^ the by, is the most 
decent chateau in the neighborhood, ornamented too with no 
little taste, enough I am afraid to mark you soon as an Aris- 
tocrat: if I had attended the "treaty in Tennessee, I should 
unquestionably have had the pleasure of paying my respects 
to you on my way; but this commission, which would have 
furnished such a feast for a philosophic traveller, I was 
obliged to decline. 

While I was engaged in the business of my profession 
my time and attention were exclusively devoted to that 
business, and my own affairs altogether neglected; my prop- 
erty it is true increased but it was not only unproductive but 
even expensive to me; under, the pressure of professional 
business I had scarcely time to perceive this circumstance, 
and it was an object to be felt, some unexpected accounts and 
charges from my plantations now and then put me in ill 
humor, but they were paid and forg-otten — When I was 
appointed Governor of the State, I supposed that the usual 
course of office of three years would give me time enough to 

was also much animosity against certain Federal Judges because of their 
overbearing conduct in the prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition 
laws. The first Congress under Jefferson repealed the Judiciary Act and 
the "midnight judges" lost their places. 

iGeneral Davie, in June 1801, was appointed head of a Commission, 
the other members being General James Wilkinson and Benjamin Haw- 
kins, once United States Senator, then Indian Agent, to negotiate with the 
Creeks and other Indians for cessions of land. This appointment was 
declined. In 1802 President Jefferson commissioned him to represent the 
United States in the negotiation for a treaty between North Carolina and 
the Tuscaroras for the disposal of the Indian Lands in Bertie County, 
which had been ceded to them for good conduct. In pursuance of a 
treaty made in 1802 the Indians then in that county removed to New York 
and became a part of the "Six Nations." 

Letters. 47 

bestow order and arrangement on the affairs of mj- estate; 
however before any thing- was affected, I was obliged to go 
to Europe, our mission was prolonged there far beyond my 
expectations, and my directions were not predicted on an 
absence of such length; my overseers, as is usual, were con- 
tented with having an excuse, and my affairs fell back into 
the same state of neglect and confusion that they were in 
when I quitted my profession: my time since my return or 
rather since the spring- has been entirely devoted to this impor- 
tant object, my arrangements reached of course thro' the 
year, and then my personal engagements oblige me to be 
stationary here till the 15th of October, excepting a journey 
to Edenton and Petersburg, and from the 15th of October to 
the last of November, I had engaged to be in Chatham and 
South Carolina; so that it was impossible to attend any of the 
treaties for which I was appointed a Commisssioner — as my 
affairs therefore would not admit of any arrangement that 
could enable me to be absent until December my acceptance 
was at once out of the question. This business being then 
decided by circumstances over which I had no control left my 
own judgment without any responsibility; there was however 
great difference of opinion among my friends with reg-ard to 
the acceptance of the appointment; my Federal friends were 
generally violently opposed to my acceptance, while those who 
are attached to the present administration discovered great 
anxiety that I should accept the appointment and attend some 
of the treaties at least; it is unnecessary to trouble you with 
their reasons, you will not be mistaken in their substance, but 
I entreat you to give me your sinecre opinion, you are sensible 
of the high esteem I have for your judgment, and the man- 
ner in which I appreciate your friendship. In cases of this 
kind it is a matter of mere chance, whather a man forms a 
correct judgment himself and therefore ought to rest 
implicitly on the judgment of his best informed friends. 

You will have returned again to the seat of government 
before I shall pass thro' Salisbury in October, I wish most 

48 James Sfirnnt Historical Monograph. 

sincerely you could return this way, we might have an oppor- 
tunity of comparing- our ideas respecting the present and 
future state of things, little can be done in the narrow range 
of a letter in taking views which at once must comprehend so 
many objects. 

I am sorry to hear thro' judge 'Macay that your crops were 
nearly lost for want of rain, the seasons here have been 
remarkably favorable and crops never more promising — no 
never — . G. Britain seems to triumph every where, never has 
she displayed more vigor, never was she in a condition to 
make so honorable and advantageous a peace — The Judge tells 
me that you informed him that our affairs are likely to be 
settled here. My respects to 2 Mrs. Steele and the family and 
believe me very sincerely and respectfully, 


W. R. Davik. 

Halifax, Dfc. 27th 1801. 
Dear Sir, 

I have the pleasure to acknowledge your letter of the 9th 
and thank you for the information it contained respecting 
the business of the Legislative session. I was not sanguine 
as to the passage of the bill repealing the 3 Gothic law of the 

iln 1790 the state was divided into two Ridings, two Judges in each. 
Spruce Macay of Salisbury was added as the new Judge. Previous to 
1790 there were only three Judges. 

2Mrs. Steele was Mary Nesfield of Fayetteville. She had three 
daughters; Ann, wife of General Jesse A. Pearson, Margaret, who mar- 
ried Stephen L. Ferrand, M.D., and was grandmother of Hon. John 
Steele Henderson, and thirdly, Eliza, wife of Colonel Robert MacNamare. 

3The Gothi^law referred to was that repealing the grant of escheated 
lands to the University, and also balances due for confiscated lands. This 
was repealed in 1805, so far only as to escheats. The chief hope of the 
institution was escheated warrants, to be located in Tennessee, and hence 
General Davie's harsh word, Gothic, as expression of robbery. Public 
taste seems to have changed to Vandals, as representing the fierce plun- 
derers of mediaeval times. 

Letters. 49 

prceeeding session, but I considered the support it received 
as a proof of the condition of the public mind and the progress 
of reason; a sort of Gothic ignorance and political fanaticism 
are the fashionable order of the day; these infectious moral 
evils like the fellow fever and the plague have their limits, 
some invisible power has always said, "so far shalt thou go 
and no farther." — They interrupt for a time the progress of 
nature or society, after which they again resume their march, 
and become progressional; Every man really attached to the 
liberties of his Country, every sincere republican must sin- 
cerely lament this sort of suicide consummated by the Legis- 
lature, ignorance and despotism, are as certain contempora- 
ries and relatives as light and Liberty. 

I hope you had the pleasure to find Mrs. Eaton quite well 
and that you enjoy all the pleasures of the season, you have 
yet no cases to trouble you — enjoy while you may, "to enjoy 
is to obey." 

Our respects to Mrs. Eaton and believe me very sincerely 
and respectfully 

W. R. Davie. 

*M Maj. John R. Eaton, 
Granville, N. C. 

Halifax, Jany. 7th 1802. 
My Dear Sir, 

I am very much obliged to you for your letter of the 22nd 
of November and the inclosure since; I am not surprised that 
a mind accustomed to look forward should feel a little gloomy 
on reviewing the prospect before us, the mind is no doubt 

iMajor John R Eaton was son of Colonel Charles R. Eaton, a militia 
officer of the Revolution. Major Eaton was a wealthy and hospitable citi- 
zen, repeatedly a member of the General Assembly from Granville He 
was a breeder of fine horses, one of them, Columbus, at the sale after his 
death, bringing $10,000. 

50 James Sfirunt Historical Monograph. 

invariably affected by the state of things around it, "a snowy 
day," an easterly wind, cannot fail to have their effect; with- 
out these physical aids our political hemisphere is always 
sufficiently charged with chilling and gloomy matter to 
excite the most unpleasant sensations. 

You know my temperament is not of the melancholy kind, 
and you will not suspect me of being hypochondrical, when 
I say that we shall never see one clear day; and the highest 
graduation of our happiness will be marked by the observa- 
tions, that "there are flying clouds." — The last violent strug- 
gle between the parties left the public Nerves in a state of 
morbid irritation and it will be long before the} 7 will again 
resume a firm and healthy tone. 

A correspondent of mine who belongs to the corps diplo- 
matique writes to me that it is positively asserted by some, 
who have good means of knowing and no motives to mislead 
that Lousiana has been ceded by Spain to 'France, that this 
measure cannot fail to connect with it that train of polic} T , 
and views you mention, for my own part I would have risked 
a great deal to secure the Floridas, or the Eastern bank to 
the mouth, it was not long ago an easy affair, and the irreg- 
ular conduct of Spain furnished the fairest pretence for doing 
ourselves justice in the modern style. 

The affection of attachment to the 2nd article of the con- 
vention by the 2 French Government was nothing but line 

iNew Orleans is on the east bank of the Mississippi. Owing to the dif- 
ficulties of long hauls by land, especially over mountains, it was necessary 
for the Western people to have the navigation of the Mississippi free. As 
the transports on the river and its tributaries were not built of sufficient 
strength to go to sea, Spain had granted for three years, continued after- 
ward without special agreement, the right of deposit at New Orleans of 
merchandise in transitu. The news that France hart obtained the rights 
of Spain in the Louisiana Territory, coupled with the boundless ambition 
of Napoleon, stirred our people very deeply. It made the purchase by the 
United States very popular in most quarters. 

2The Convention mentioned was that with France in 1800. France, it 
appears, wished not to surrender her rights under former treaties, begin- 

Letters. 51 

ruse diplomatique-, all they urged that had the semblance of 
argument, resolved itself simply into this, that if they agreed 
to our form of ratification fiurement et simplement the} 7 would 
absolutely and forever abandon their claim to treaties, while 
we would reserve our claim to idemnities. The seeming 
force of this argument is derived from the false ground that 
the claims and disputes of Nations are settled by judicial 
maxims; the truth is they saw the awkward situation into 
which the business was cast, and wished to make the most of 
its "retrenchment. As the latter part of that article stipu- 
lated "that the treaties should cease to operate until the two 
nations had agreed to those points deferred," it removed all 
objections to the operation of the British treaty as to an 
asylum for privateers and prizes, and in fact contained the 
consent of France to the contingent operations of those articles 
then becoming absolute; it was their part of that article 
which was unpleasant to them, and it formed unquestionably 
a very natural ground of objection. 

Pray let me know something about the proposed financial 
reforms — is everything to be reduced to the simple trash!! 
Where will this business end. I will be greatly obliged to 
you, when you have it in your pow T er, such documents as may 
be seen by the sovereign people, and which might enable me 
to form some judgment whereabouts we are. — Make my best 
respects to your daughter and believe me very sincerely and 


W. R. Davie. 
N. B. Be assured of my discretion, 

nothing you write shall ever be put into the press. 
John Steele, Esquire. 

niug with that of 1778, which had been the subject of dispute between 
the nations for years. The in leninities we claimed were for spoliations 
of our commerce. 

The British Treaty referred to was Jay's Treaty of 1794. 
lRetrenchment seems to mean suppression or curtailment. 

52 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph. 

I beg- your attention to an alteration proposed by the Post- 
master General in carrying - from here the western mail, it is 
perhaps an inadvertence perhaps worse, I do not know Mr. 
Murray's residence, pray direct the enclosed for me. 

Halifax March 13th 1802. 
My Dear Sir, 

1 am much obliged to you for your favor of the 30th of 
Jany. I had the pleasure of writing to you some time ago, 
and committing to your patronage two Gentlemen whose 
claims upon our Government must be acknowledged by every 
impartial man, having no means of serving them myself, I 
felt a pleasure in leaving in your hands the agreeable office of 
relieving and rewarding suffering- merit. 

As to the metallic substances left by my ci-devant Col- 
league in you care, I will be obliged to you to give them to 
Mr. 'Alston our member of Congress when he is coming home, 
he will be kind enough to take charge of them, as I have the 
honor to be one of his constituents, and one of the sovereign 

The Bill repealing the judiciary law of the last session, I 
am informed, has passed, and will no doubt receive the sanc- 
tion of the President; as the avowed object of this man is to 
effectuate the removal of the Judges, the Constitution is no 
longer considered by Congress in any other light, than that 
in which Doctor Swift represents the Holy Scriptures, when 
he likens them to a. loose pair of trousers, which any man 
with a little tugging may draw over his backside: indeed all 
Constitutions are useless, if the doctrines of Mr. 2 Brecken- 

iPhilip Alston, of Halifax, repeatedly member of the State Senate 
and House of Commons; was a Representative in Congress, 1803-1815, and 
1825-1831. Davie opposed him in 1803, without success. 

2John Breckenridge, member of the Kentucky Legislature, and Sen- 
ator of the United States, 1801-1805; Attorney General, 1805-1806. With 
Jefierson and Nicholas he draughted the "Kentucky Resolutions" and 
was the introducer of them into the legislature. 

Letters. 53 

ridge are to be supported by the ruling- party; and that cele- 
brated "instrument vaunted as "the world's best hope" is no 
more than an old woman's story. — What course will things 
take? How long will the Lilliputian ties of the public debt 
etc. etc. hold us together?— Pray let me hear from you and 
believe me with great respect, sincerely yours 

W. R. Davie. 
John Steele, Esquire. 

Halifax, Aug. 20th 1802. 
My Dear Sir 

I have to acknowledge not only the receipt of your letter of 
the 21st ulto., but the pleasure it gave me also, the appoint- 
ment of Mr. 2 Burnett to the Consulate of Antwerp is a repa- 
ration which Administrations seldom make either for their 
injustice or mistakes; and I now flatter myself with a hope 
that you will be able to offer something for the 2 Quondam 
Major — Poor fellow Providence seems determined that he 
shall have occasion for all the resources nature has furnished 
him with, or that he has acquired by experience. 

We have been so long in the habit of contemplating or 
expecting great events, deciding the fate of nations; that it 
is almost impossible to avoid feeling some ennui amidst the 
present calm — a friend said to me the other day "our situa- 

iThe public men in the early days of the Union were continually hav- 
ing visions of the extreme sickness and even death of the Constitution. 
Nathaniel Macon was firmly persuaded of its untimely demise before he 
left the Senate. Such gloomy forebodings can be found in letters of many 

21 have been unable to discover the facts concerning "Mr. Burnett" or 
the "quondam Major." The short description by Davie of the latter suits 
many men of his period — and our own. 

54 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

tion would be really insupportable if it was not for J Duane, 
2 Callender, and the President." 

Our Government from certain constitutional causes will 
never do what it ought, at the time it ought to be done; the 
complaints we had against Spain were sufficient to have war- 
ranted any measures that our Government might have taken to 
secure to us the mouth of the Mississippi; and the Floridas 
oug"ht now to be purchased at any price. 

I have long- observed your reserve in writing - , and supposed 
there existed objections as you say beyond the mere drudgery 
— I have regretted it, and did not doubt as to the motives 
being prudential — I set out for 4 Bethlehem with one of my 
daug-hters about the first of October and hope either g"oing- 
or returning- to have the pleasure of seeing you at Washington. 
The death of Mrs. 5 Davie has devolved upon me the whole 

iDuane (William) was editor of the Aurora in Philadelphia, a Repub- 
lican paper; a man with a sharp, abusive and able pen. When the militia 
was called out to suppress the Fries riots he criticised their conduct so 
severely that he was whipped by some officers. He was indicted under 
the Sedition Act, but not convicted. He accused the United States Sen- 
ate of the attempt to frustrate the popular will of Pennsylvania. For this 
he was brought before the bar of the Senate for a "false, defamatory, 
scandalous and Malicious publication," and "a high breach of its privi- 
leges." He refused to appear. His arrest was ordered, but he secreted 
himself and the close of the session ended the case. 

2Callender (Thomas) published a pamphlet called the "Prospect Before 
Us. " Judge Samuel Chase by harsh means procured his indictment for a 
seditious publication. The Judge was so domineering that the prisoner's 
counsel abandoned the case. He was convicted and sentenced to nine 
months' imprisonment, a fine of $200 and to give security for good behav- 

3It is impossible for us at this day to realize the hatred the Federalists 
had for President Jefferson, aud their fear of his radicalism. 

^Bethlehem, on Lehigh river in Pennsylvania, was settled by the 
Moravians in 1741 It has long had a school for females of great reputa- 
tion. Lehigh University was located there in 1865. 

2General Davie married Sarah Jones, daughter of General Allen Jones, 
niece of Willie Jones, and granddaughter of Robin Jones, Attorney-Gen- 
eral prior to the Revolution. She is buried at Halifax in the village cem- 

Letters. 55 

care of my children; I am therefore at present confined to 
this spot, and my health has been bad ever since my return 
from So. Carolina in the spring-. 

My best respects to your family, and believe me very sin- 
cerely and respectfully 


W. R. Davie. 
General John Steele, Esquire. 

Halifax, May 2, 1803. 

BEING informed that it is the wish of the Citizens of this 
District, that I would offer as a Candidate at the approaching 
Election for a Representative in Congress, I beg the favour 
of you to inform your neig-hbors that I am willing- to serve 
them in that capacity, if they should think proper to elect 

I desire that it may be clearly understood, that I never 
have, and that I never will, surrender my "principles to opin- 
ions of any man, or description of men, either in or out of 
power; and that I wish no man to vote for me, who is not 
willing- to leave me free to pursue the good of my Country 
according to the best of my judgment, without respect either 
to party men or party views. 
I am very respectfully, 

Your most obedient servant, 

W. R. Davie. 

etery. She had three daughters, Mary Hayne, who married 

Crockett of Texas; Sarah Jonas, wife of William F. DeSaussure, United 
States Senator; and Martha Rebecca, who married Dr. C B. Jones of 
South Carolina. 

^Notwithstanding his high standing Jeffersonian Republicanism was 
too strong for him. There are traditions that the canvass against him 
was conducted on a despicably low plane, principally against his alleged 

56 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

To this a 'postscript was afterwards added 

to the charge that I was attempting- a monarchical form of 

Halifax June 9th 1805. 
Dear Sir 

I returned here from So. Carolina on the 5th and had the 
pleasure to find your letter of the 16th of April and thank 
you for your kind concern respecting- my Health. I have 
now again been two weeks on the road, and return perfectly 
worn down: my constitution canuot bear that degree of suf- 
fering-, privation and incessant toil, which when I enjoyed 
youth and health only gave me spirits and pleasure. — 
Everything must yield to Time, and I have submitted with as 
good a grace as possible. My Plan of life is to be completely 
changed, and those measures which are to lead me to a 
Repose I have long sighed for, and which is becoming every 
day more necessary for me are to commence this fall. — 
This plan involves some painful sacrifices, but they are 
necessary and indispensable. — A separation from friends to 
whom my Heart has been tenderly attached for many years is 
among the most painful of all these; I anticipate it, I feel it 
as a prelude to that last separation to which the laws of our 
Nature compel us to submit. About the 1st of November I 
propose to set out for South Carolina with a view to reside 
permanently on my Estate there; whether I shall pass 
through Raleigh or go by the 2 Ridge, is not yet decided. If I 

aristocratic habits at his home and elsewhere. It was charged that his 
dress and ways were acquired in his recent trip abroad and showed that 
he was under ''foreign influence." 

i\Ve have not the words of this postscript. 

2The road by "the ridge," went through Granville County, then along 
the present route of the North Carolina Railroad. It "headed" many of 
the streams and was probably a more eligible route than that through 
Raleigh . 

Letters, 57 

take the former route I shall have the pleasure of seeing- you 
once more. 

I expected to be at the University at Commencement, but I am 
oblig-ed to carry my second daughter to 'Salem about the 25th 
of July, the time the Superintendent has fixed for her recep- 
tion and in my situation, you will easily perceive, two jour- 
nies cannot be made. The situation of the University is a 
distressing - one, and the more so, as it is not likely to be soon 
capable of any Remedy, being- the necessary consequence of 
Legislative hostility to the Institution. The friends of 
science in other States reg-ard the people of North Carolina 
as a sort of Semi-Barbarians, among- whom neither learning-, 
virtue nor men of Science possess any Estimation. The con- 
duct of the Legislature for several years past has stamped 
this character on the State, and it will take a long- course of 
time, and contrary conduct and policy to efface the impres- 

In South Carolina a Professorship is more eag-erly canvassed 
for than a Secretaryship in the Government of the U. S., the 
consequence of that liberal spirit which has been displayed 
by their Assembly; after a handsome and permanent endow- 
ment of the offices of the Institution, they voted $10,000., to 
purchase a Library and Philosophical apparatus — What a 
contrast!! Poor No. Carolina! 

As to procuring a professor of lang-uages, I can only advise 
that the Enquiry be kept up, and as much of this as possible 
thrown on the President, who indeed is the proper person 
to make the choice of inferior officers, as the whole respon- 
sibility of the management of the Institution turns person- 
ally upon him. 

I wrote to you last about the 9th of February, I don't 

iThe excellent School for Females at Salem under the charge of the 
Moravians was opened in 1802. 

The "second daughter" was Sarah Jones, who married Hon. Wm. F. 
DeSaussure, and left many descendants through her daughters, Mrs. 
Boy kin and Mrs. Burroughs of S. C. 

58 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph. 

know whether you rec'dthe letter, it was intended to go with 
Mr. 'Craven, and missed that conveyance, and was I believe 
put into the post-office. Adieu my dear friend, and be assured 
you possess the warmest affections of my Heart. 


W. R. Davik. 
P. S. The above letter contained 2 Genl. Jones rects. for 
you. Write me if you got it. 

John Haywood, Esq., 


Halifax, Sept. 22nd 1805. 
My Dear Sir 

I had the pleasure to receive by the last post your letter of 
the 10th inst. and those of the 26th of Tune and 1st of July 
in the course of conveyance, these two last I should have 
answered sooner, but I wished to decide, before I wrote, 
whether I should pass through Raleigh on my way to So. 
Carolina as you had kindly proposed to meet me somewhere 
if I did not. — My arrangements are now made to pass thro' 
Raleigh about the 7th or 8th of November when I hope to 
have the pleasure of seeing you. 

The late unfortunate occurrence at the University is much 
to be lamented on many accounts, and most of all for the ill- 
advised measure of the Ordinance which gave birth to the 

iJohn Graven, of Halifax, was State Comptroller, 1783-1808. 
/ 2 Allen Jones and Willie Jones were brothers. Allen was a militia 
General in the Revolution. He was Davie's father-in-law. Willie held 
high position in the State and Confederation. His public views were 
those of Jefferson. 

3This ordinance, which forced a majority of the best students to leave 
the institution, required the Faculty to appoint a Monitor from each class, 
who should take an oath before a judicial officer to report every infraction 

Letters. 59 

conduct adopted by the students. You will remember, no 
doubt, that an ordinance of this kind was rejected several 
years ago on a full consideration by the Board, on the 
ground that the principle was improper. These Monitors 
under the ordinance are not a species of Magistrates, but 
real spies, and human nature revolts from the principle of 
Espionage in every shape: the corruption and depravity of 
London, Paris, and other large cities renders its adoption 
necessary by the police, but the most degraded wretch in 
these sinks of Depravity could not be induced to accept it as 
a public office, and always stipulates for the most part pro- 
found secrecy with regard to his employment. I do not 
believe that the duty of Monitors or Censors has ever been 
carried further in any literary Institution, than to note the 
absences from prescribed duties such as attendance on recita- 
tions prayers Church etc. 

With regard to my advice as to this unhappy occurrence 
itself, I should have advised that the ordinance should have 
been suspended as to its operation till the annual meeting of 
the Board, when it will probably be repealed altogether. And 
with regard to the students whose conduct in this instance 
forms a most dangerous precedent; I think, with proper 
deference to the late act of the Trustees, that discrimina- 
tions with regard to readmission, should have been adopted 
on some principle, such as the degree of guilt, or the age, 
or the standing of the student. 

I have reflected much and seriously since this event on the 
causes of this spirit of insubordination and the means of pre- 
venting it. — It has always existed in a considerable degree, 
the ordinance may be considered as only an accidental cause, 
I think the real causes may be found in the defects of domes- 
tic education in the So. States, the weakness of parental 
authority, the spirit of the Times, the arrangement as to 

of the by-laws and species of misconduct among the students. The Trus- 
tees, when this ordinance was resisted, modified it by substituting a 
pledge of honor for the oath, but the students refused to accept the change, 

6.0 James Sfirnnt Historical Monograph. 

vacation, and some errors of the Board which I will notice 

Every man of discernment who has lived 40 or 50 years 
must have observed and lamented the general decay of paren- 
tal authority, and the consequent presumption and loose man- 
ners of young- men, Boys of 16 or 17 years, without judg- 
ment, without experience or almost any knowledge of any 
kind arrogantly affect to judge for themselves, their teachers 
and their parents in matters of morality, of Government, of 
Education, in fact in every thing. The effect of the other 
general cause is visible throughout the whole of their remon- 
strance. — Nothing can be more ridiculous than Boys at school 
talking of "sacred regard to their rights," "the high and 
imposing duty of resistance," and of "denouncing laws", 
etc. etc., the general Slang of the times culled from the col- 
umns of Newspapers, yet these very words are attended with 
the most mischievous consequences. Over all these causes 
however the Board of Trustees have no power or influence, 
but they must be considered to be counteracted as far as pos- 

I have understood and observed ever since the establish- 
ment of the University that the disturbances have g-enerally 
manifested themselves about this period of the second ses- 
sion, and that when a general resistance to authority did not 
take place, a spirit of Insubordination always showed itself 
more or less at this season. This I attribute to the great 
length of time the students have been confined at Colledge; 
they become tired and disgusted with study, their minds gen- 
erally acquire a sour gloomy and restive temperament, pro- 
ducing a general predisposition to any measure that may 
break up the session, or interrupt business and distress the 
Faculty. Two or three fellows more daring and unprinci- 
pled than the rest seize on this Disposition, and artfully turn 
it into the channel of a general revolt against all authority: 
To Remedy this Evil I would earnestly recommend that an 
ordinance should be passed at the next annual meeting estab- 

Letters. 61 

lishing- the vacations exactly on the same footing- as they are 
at Princeton whatever they may be, and Mr. Caldwell can 
give the necessary information, they are the result, of Exper- 
ience and have been found to answer the purpose, if you 
approve of this I would advise that President Caldwell should 
be requested to prepare so much of the ordinance as may relate 
to any alterations in the division of the courses of studies, 
Examinations, etc. 

The difficulty we have continually experienced in the man- 
agement of youth at this Institution has often oblig-ed me to 
reflect on the means we have used, and the nature of the 
Government of such Institutions . I am now fully con- 
vinced the best g-overned Colleg-es are those which have the 
most respectable Faculties, and the fewest written 'laws, and 
that we have committed a serious error in making- an ordi- 
nance for every thing, or in other words legislating- too much. 

—It is now my opinion, that after describing- the kind of 

punishment to be used in the Establishment, and reserving- 
in all cases the punishment of Expulsion to be confirmed by 
the Board, all the rest should be left to the discretion of the 
Faculty. It may perhaps require some reflection to see the 
justice of this remark, and I will only add, that the principles 
of the parental Government are the true model for that of 
literary Institutions for youth of all kinds from the University 
down to the common school. The parental Government has 
no written laws, and I would observe, that no mortal man 

could g-overn his family if he adopted that mode If he 

did, his whole household would become, like these students, 

iGeneral Davie's advice to trust little to by-laws, and leave the discip- 
line to the Faculty was far ahead of his time. We now practically go still 
further. The regulation of the conduct of students is left to the Presi- 
dent and Dean, with power to consult an Executive Committee, or the 
Faculty when they deem best. 

This letter has a pathetic interest as being the last word spoken by Gen- 
eral Davie— the legacy of his experience and good- will. His labors were 
greatly appreciated and the title, "Father of the University," given by 
the Board, was in recognition of them. 

62 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

lawyers and legislators, discussing- his ordinances, chattering 
about "their rights", "despotism", "duty of resistance", etc. 
etc. They would form themselves into revolutionary commit- 
tees, and be always deliberating, remonstrating, and 

I have been led to doubt whether our practice of publishing 
in the news-papers annually the distinctions made at examin- 
ations may not be attended with consequences which if not 
the immediate causes, operate at least powerfully with other 
remote causes to produce many difficulties we have exper- 
ienced. The objects of this measure were to excite emulation 
among the students, gratify the parents and attract public 
attention to the Institution, but I apprehend that it has also 
had the effect of filling the young men with presumption, and 
a vain imaginary consequence, which had an ill effect upon 
their own conduct afterwards, and gave them a pernicious 
influence among their fellow students; and then the mischief 
it produces greatly overbalances any good to be expected 
from it: and perhaps it would be better to adopt hereafter 
the practice of other Colleges who notice in the papers the 
commencement honors only: and other reasons of considerable 
weight might be given for this measure. That it is danger- 
ous to depart from the paths of Experience is a Truth I am 
more and more convinced of every day I live. 

I was sorry to see a long piece in the : . 

(Unable to make out rest of letter) 

To John Haywood, Esquire, 

Raleigh, No. Carolina. 

P. S. 

It will be much time before I can sell the land of Mr. 
Jones. I went to see General Jones after receipt of your letter 
but he was too sick to discuss it. I will write to you in a 
few days. 

Letters. 63 

Lands-Ford, near Lancaster Ct. House, 

Jany. 22nd 1806. 
Dear Sir 

Since Colonel 'Moore departed from here on Sunday last I 
have found another file of the papers relative to the subject 
of the boundary, they consist principally of the representa- 
tions of the Assembly to Governor Martin relative to the 
Extension of the line under the order of June 1771; and altho' 
the dissatisfaction shown by these documents on the part of 
No. Carolina mig-ht not now vary the legal merits of the case 
yet I regret very much that I had not laid my hands upon 
them before Col. Moore set out. 

I wish you may be fortunate enough to terminate this 
affair to the satisfaction of both States, and beg- you to 
present my respects to the other Commissioners, and accept 
of the asurances of the esteem and reg-ards 
of your most ob. & 

W, R. Davie 
General John Steele, 

Charlotte, N. C. 

Landsford Nov. 25th, '07. 
Dear Sir, 

Mr. Caldwell informs me that you propose going- to Colum- 
bia on his return to Salisbury; I should be extremely happy 
to see you at my 3 House, and it is as direct a route as you can 

lOol. Moore was probably Roger Moore, who was in the House of Com- 
mons from New Hanover in 1806. He was a scion of the family descended 
from Governor Yeamans, Governor James Moore, Colonel Maurice Moore, 
Judge Maurice Moore, and Judge Alfred Moore 

2The Commissioners on the part of North Carolina were General Steele, 
Montford Stokes and Robert Burton. Stokes became Senator of the 
United States and Governor of the State. Burton had been a member of 
the Congress of the Confederation. The scientific expert was President 
Joseph Caldwell of the University. 

iGeneral Davie's country place was called Trivoli. 

64 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph. 

take. T shall flatter myself with the expectation of seeing 
you, the direct way is to cross at the old nation ford. 

Make my best respects to your family and believe me with 
great respect, 


W. R. Davie. 
General Steele, 

Salisbury, N. C. 

Lands-ford Jany. 4th, 1810. 
Dear Sir, 

I have the pleasure to acknowledge your letter of the 26th 
Novm., the anxious hope I entertained that some light would 
be thrown upon the gloomy circumstances to which it refers 
by the communications to Congress or their discussions 
induced me to defer answering it. I was too remote from 
Head-quarters to possess a sufficient knowledge of the partic- 
ular views and opinions of the men who now hold the destiny 
of our Country in their Hands, and the whims and prejudices 
of politicians so often influence their public conduct and are 
so generally the real springs which actuate them that it is 
extremely difficult, as you know, to form any judgment of the 
course and direction they may give to public affairs, which 
are eternally more or less mingled with their private views. 

The late discourse of the views of the "British Cabinet and 
the foolish conduct of Jackson has again aroused the war 
party into activity; whether they will be successfully opposed 
by the torpor, into which the national feeling seems to have 
sunk, the determination imputed to the President, and the 

efforts of the remaining friends of Peace, I know not 

War speeches have now in a great m easure lost their 
effect, they are like "a tale that has been told"; the 
People are smarting under the effects of the embargo and non- 

iSee note to letter of Feby' 10, 1812. 

Letters. 65 

intercourse policy, and dread War as still a worse evil, they 
must always feel before they will begin to think: and most 
of us have had our pecuniary sensibilities considerably 

As to the two Great Belligerent Powers, I see no hope of 
any radical or material change of policy to be expected from 
either of them with regard to the U. States. On an entire 
change of the B. Ministry some modification of their orders 
might be expected, but their principle will be maintained, 
and I think the Emperor will adhere to his "Text" till he 
can find a more successful mode of carrying on the War 
against Congress. 

My hope rests upon the President, I sincerely believe he is 
a man of great virtue, we all know he has sense and the 
experience of many years in public life, and they now say he 
has more promptitude and decision than any man who ever 
filled the Presidential Chair; May God grant that this may 

be true; Our affairs may yet do well and this pause operate 

no injury. 

Enclosed I forward to you the proceedings of our Legis- 
lature with regard to the boundary Tell me what you will 

do . 

Write to me 1 am sorry we are so far from each other 

and believe me with great regard and esteem 

Your friend 

W. R. Davik. 
General John Steele 

Salisbury, N. C. 

Landsford, Catawba. 

Jany. 10th 1812. 
Dear Sir, 

I have the pleasure to acknowledge your letter of the 25th 
of November, and beg you to present my thanks to t\\c 

bb James Sfrunt Historical Monograph. 

President, Faculty and Trustees of the University of North 
Carolina for this mark of their polite attention, and to assure 
them of the hi g-h sense I entertain of the honor they have 
been pleased to confer upon me, with my warmest wishes for 
the success of the institution. 

I pray you Sir, also to accept my thanks for the polite man- 
ner in which you have been pleased to communicate this act 
of the Board. 

I am very respectfully 

Your Most Obt., 

I W. R. Davik. 
2 Robt. Williams, Esq., 

Secretary of the Board of Trustees, 

University of North Carolina. 

Catawba near Lancaster Ct. House, Aug-. 15, '08. 

My Dear Sir, 

I had the pleasure to receive by the last post }^ours of the 
8th and congratulate you on your narrow and providential 
escape from such imminent dang-er, I know no situation in 
which a man may more easily lose a limb or his life than that 
in which you was exposed. 

I regret exceedingly the arrang-ement which prevented 
your spending a day with me, during- which I had promised 
myself the pleasure of comparing our views of the various 

iThe letter of Davie is in acknowledgement of the degree of Doctor of 
Laws (LL.D. ) granted in 1812. He was the first on whom this degree 
was conferred The like degree was conferred on Ashbel Green, D.D. in 
J 812, and next honored was in 1825, Nathaniel Macon — only three Doctor- 
ates of Laws in the first thirty years of ihe existence of the University. 

^General Robert Williams was Secretary and Treasurer of the Univers- 
ity from 1809 to 1821. He was brother of Congressman Lewis Williams, 
"Father of the House" of Representatives of the United States. He was 
Adjutant General of this State. 

Letters. 67 

aspects of the political horizon; never in my opinion was the 
situation of the country more critical, or our prospects more 
pregnant with danger: 'Negotiation leads every where into 
difficulties, war points to incalculable evils, and the Embargo, 
as terrapin-hostilities, to the depression of the public mind 
and the gradual but certain ruin of our financial resources. 

What have we to hope from a feeble and timid administra- 
tion? Providence has stamped a kind of awful character on 
the events of the present times, which seems to have appalled 
the firmest minds, and chained the energies of the nations; 
neither the government nor the people of Europe appear to 
have had any adequate ideas of the terrible destiny which 
awaited them, until their fate was irrevocably fixed: in this 
fatality, if there is such a thing, it is eminently conspicuous 
in the conduct and destruction of 2 Prussia and 3 Spain: but 
without resorting to the mysterious workings of a chastising 
Providence to explain the errors and misfortunes of men; may 
not the calamities of these kingdoms be fairly attributed to 
the imbecility and ignorance of their princes, and the timidi- 
ty and corruption of their ministers; observe the devious tem- 
porising policy of Prussia since '95, and the abject slavish con- 
descension of Spain — . Prussia never thought of assistance 
till it was useless, when it resembled the instinctive efforts of 
despair, and the government of Spain had submitted, till it 
knew not how to resist. — Now compare the policy of the 
United States since 1800 with the course pursued by these 

iGeneral Davie's comparison of the United States making war on Eng 
land and France by shutting up her ports and cutting off intercourse, to a 
terrapin, is obvious to one who has witnessed that interesting animal 
withdrawing head, feet and tail within its shell. 

2By the Peace of Tilsit in 1807 Prussia's territory was reduced from 
89, 120 to 46,032 square miles and she was made to pay an indemnity of 
$28,000,000. Until payment was made she had to support 150,000 French 

3Iu May, 1808, Napoleon forced the King and heir of the Spanish mon- 
archy to cede their rights to Joseph, his brother. He sent a great army 
into the country. 

68 James Sftrunt Historical Monograph. 

unfortunate Monarchies, mark their character and analogies 
look at our interior arrangements, examine the course of our 
negotiations, and the state of our foreign relations, and ob- 
serve the presiding spirit of our government, and tell me 
frankly if we are not directed in the same perilous track, by 
the same means, to the same dreadful destiny. Has not "war 
with France been a probable event for some time past, is it 
not now inevitable, has it not been the policy of our govern- 
ment to lull us to sleep with regard to the designs of this 
formidable Power, is it wise to wait with folded arms to see 
what good or rather evil time may bring forth, or has not the 
crisis arrived which demands decision, and when the worst 
part we could take would be that of not taking any? — I have 
fallen insensibly into the train of reflection upon which I 
wished we should have occupied the. day you promised me. 

As to the Presidency Madison will certainly be elected, and 
he is the best choice that could be made among the present 
Candidates. — Mr. Jefferson will assuredly leave our affairs 
involved in the utmost confusion and difficulty: it is therefore 
of great importance, that the President should be the person 
whose measures would recieve the most general support. No 
effort will be made in this State to counteract the Congress- 
ional nomination, nor I think in Georgia. As to the V. P. 
(Vice President) the 3 Demo'cts are not satisfied with Gov. 
Clinton, if they knew how they might decently, or rather 
safely shake him off; there will be some intriguing on the 
meeting of Congress; but Madison's friends are committed 

lln a private letter Jeff srson said, "England seems to have become a 
den of pirates and France a den of thieves " 

2 When the electoral votes were counted Madison received 122, George 
* Clinton 6, and O. C Pinckney 47. George Clinton for Vice President had 
113, Rufus King 47, and 15 were scattering. 

3By Democrats Davie means Republicans. The original name of the 
party was Democratic- Republican. When the Democrats of France went 
into the Reign of Terror and became odious, for policy's sake the name 
Republican was adopted by Jefferson and other leaders. 

Letters. 69 

and they will risk nothing-. I think x Mr. K in any event 

stands no chance; the 2 P , with everything- that is virtuous 

and valuable have sunk below the political horizon. 

I am happy that you have settled the disputes about the 
Boundray, the Convention is not to be published till the Legis- 
lature meets, when I will write you how it is received. We 
have been extremely dry since I saw you, and crops are greatly 
injured, the cotton especially has suffered. Write to me, and 
may God take care of you, these evil times, and believe me 
sincerely yours, 

W. R. Davie. 

General John Steele, 


Lands-ford, Catawba. 

Feby. 10th 1812. 
Dear Sir, 

I had the pleasure to receive your letter from Raleig-h, and 
beg-in to believe with you that we shall be plunged in war, 
the discussions with the 4 British minister, the message of the 

i"Mr. K." is probably Rufus King. The "P" is probably Charles 
Cotesworth Pinckney. 

2Pinckney and his brother, Thomas Pinckney, and their cousin, 
Charles Pinckney — all "virtuous and valuable." 

3Acts were passed and Commissioners appointed to run the dividing 
line between North Carolina on one part and South Carolina and Georgia 
on the other in 1803, again in 1804, 1806, 1808, 1813, 1814, and as to South 
Carolina, settled in 1815. As to Georgia the final settlement was in 1819. 

-©avid Montague Erskine, British Minister, more friendly to the Uni- 
ted States, perhaps, because his wife was an American, had promised the 
President that his country would repeal the "Orders in Council" which 
bore so heavily on our commerce, if the United States would suspend as 
to England the Non-intercourse act. The offer was accepted and there 
was great rejoicing. Erskine's action was disavowed by the British Min- 
istry and Charles James Jackson was sent in his stead. The Orders in 
Council were renewed and Jackson contradicted the Secretary of State so 
rudely and pointedly that Congress requested by resolution the President 
to recognize him no longer. He is the minister alluded to in this letter. 

70 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

President and tb e report of the Committee of Foreign rela- 
tions, have placed the Government in a situation from which 
it cannot retreat, without absolute disgrace; they are exactly 
in the condition of Macbeth, there is more personal danger 

in going back than marching on 1 mean to their popularity '. 

If we can steer clear of an alliance with Prance, upon the 
whole, perhaps it will be better, two or three rattling rights, 
30 or 40,000 thousand men killed, and a debt of as many mil- 
lion will bring us all to our senses You will remember 

some years ago giving me your serious opinion that we must 
touch the extreme point of public wretchedness before the 
people could be set right. 

There was really no difference of opinion on the subject you 
mention, you extend your views further as to our administra- 
tion than I did, because youknow them personally and perfectly, 

and I know nothing about them 1 still consider the British 

orders a part of their system of 'blockade, no more than the 
extension of the same principle, the mode only was suggested 
by 2 Bonaparte, whose Genius is a little bolder than that of the 
British Ministry. 

We poor planters are much "bothered" here to know what 
to do, we depend entirely on foreign commerce and are now 
perfectly at a loss. What are you going to plant this year, 
what can we best do Present my best respects to the fam- 

iThe blockades of the Napoleonic wars would be considered illegal 
now. France and Great Britain both declared the coasts of each other in 
a state of blockade, and neutral vessels, bound for their respective ports, 
were liable to capture. This action worked peculiar hardships on the 
United States, large numbers of whose vessels were seized and condemned 
with their cargoes. At the present time a blockade is not lawful unless a 
sufficient force is stationed at the blockaded port to capture under ordi- 
nary circumstances vessels seeking to enter. 

SNapoleon in 1806 by the Berlin Decree prohibited trade with Graet 
Britain. The next year by Order in Council, (the Privy Council), Great 
Britain prohibited direct trade with any country under the control of 

Letters. 71 

ily and let me hear from you, and believe me with the warm- 
est attachment and respects yours, etc., 

W. R. Davie. 
We have now a post-offi.ce at this place; and I seldom send to 

To General John Steele. 

IvANDS-FORD, Nov. 29th '14. 

My dear Sir, 

I have had the intention of writing- to you for two or three 
weeks past on the subject of the communications from our 
Commissioners at "Ghent, but the alarming- proceeding-s at 
home, the 2 movements in the New England States, and the 
monstrous strides towards despotism made by the party in 
power have absolutely so stunned and astonished me that I 
know not what to say or write. After the best reflections I 
could make on the views and measures of our Eastern brethren 
I came to the conclusion, that weary of the tyranny of the 
Virginia Administrations, seeing- no possibility of chang-e, and 
disg-usted with a g-overnment in which they had no practical 
share, and of course no influence, they had been wrought up 
to the determination to secede from the Union. And 1 now 
think that the immense army to be raised, the heavy taxes 
proposed, the vast and proflig-ate expenditure of public money, 
followed up by the conscriptions will confirm any resolutions 

iThe Commissioners of Peace at Ghent were: Henry Clay, of Kentucky, 
John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts, Albert Gallatin, of Pennsylvania, 
James A. Bayard, of Delaware, and. Jonathan Russell, of Massachusetts. 

2The blockadiug of all our coasts, but New England, by Great Britain, 
the mysterious secrecy of the Hartford Convention, the refusal of the 
Governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow their militia to go 
outside their states, together with the general hostility to the war in New 
England, gave the impression that Secession was to be attempted. Then 
too the feeling against the Federalists was intensified by the story that 
they burned blue lights at night as signals to the British vessels. 

72 James Sfrunt Historical Monograph. 

of this kind that they may have taken. It really appears to 
me that the present confederacy will not last two years more 
and that Mr. Madison will finish his career amidst the ruins 
of his Country. Perhaps these views of the subject may have 
preyed too much upon my mind, and by that process have as- 
sumed an aspect more gloomy than it should be, I should be 
happy however to have your opinion. 

As to the 'Conscription proposed I feel no hesitation in pro- 
nouncing it unconstitutional, and that such a power in the 
General Government must soon crush the State sovereignties 
to atoms, and annihilate the Liberties of the people: and I 
am certain, I hazard nothing in saying that had the constitu- 
tion contained a plain clause conferring such a power on the 
General Government, that it would not have been adopted by 
a single state in the Union. 

The vassals of Virginia may perhaps quietly submit their 
necks to the yoke, but it will certainly be resisted in every 
other part of the U. States. 

Let me know what you think of these things and believe me 
with respect and regard yours 

W. R. Davik. 

Land-ford Octo. 15th 1812. 
Dear Sir,, 

I suppose that the melancholy issue of the invasion of upper 
Canada, and the prospects of a disastrous war, connected with 
the pressure of private difficulties must have commenced a 
change of opinion among many of the democratic party in No. 
Carolina, the people must feel before they will think or reflect, 
or endeavor to trace public calamnities to their real causes, 

iThere was no Conscription Act passed, thongh a draft from the militia 
was proposed. The forcing of citizens into the army was done by both the 
Union and Confederate Congresses during the Civil War and the question 
of constitutionality is settled. 

Letters. 73 

but under circumstances like the present, when a change 
does commence its progress will be rapid and its effects 
decisive: whether the short period between this time and the 
Presidential election will be sufficient to enable the friends 
of peace and commerce in No. Cara. to avail themselves of its 
full effect I know not; much however will depend on exertion, 
and the dissemination of information; you have long known 
my opinion, that nothing is done while Virginia maintains 
her present ascendency in the confederacy, and that our 
political liberties and our prosperity depend upon our raising 
up'a competent rival to her ambitious pretensions. 

The present moment is in many respects highly favorable, 
and I sincerely hope you will give your aid to organize the 
means of effecting this great object, which in my opinion 

would insure us peace, commerce and prosperity The war 

however to be lamented was the only cure for our domestic 
evils; if they levy money sufficient to carry it on with vigor 
to ensure even partial success, the taxes will do the business, 
if they permit the war to languish for want of means, disas- 
ter and disgrace must be the consequence and an accumulated 
debt without any equivalent, the people will be disgusted 
and general dissatisfaction will ensue; any way the party in 
power must be ruined: but it would shorten the period of our 
sufferings if 'Clinton could now be elected, in that case I have 
no doubt, Peace would immediately take place, the Union be 
preserved, and .the towering pretensions of Virginia be 
repressed perhaps forever; pray write me what are your pros- 

l During the War of 1812 the Americans lost Detroit and Chicago and 
failed in an invasion of Canada by way of Niagara. Davie was not, how- 
ever, a true prophet. Madison was reelected by a vote of 131 over 89 for 
De Witt Clinton and Eldridge Gerry obtained the Vice- Presidency by 128 
over 89. for Jared Ingersoll. If the Republicans made mistakes the Feder- 
alists made greater. The people wer,e persuaded that they mourned over 
our victories and rejoiced over our defeats, and that they contributed to 
those defeats by factious opposition to the Government. 

74 James Sprunt Historical Monograph. 

pects, and what are the views of the Federalists in No. Caro« 
Una, and believe me with great respect 

sincerely jours 

W. R. DaviKc 
We have a post-office at this place direct to 
Land-fords, Catawba, via Camden. 

Lands-ford, Feby. 4th 1814. 
My Dear Sir, 

I am anxious to hear your opinion of the prospect before us, 
and whether you think the 'Administration are seriously 
desirous of peace, and have made up their minds to adopt the 
basis proposed by the British Government in their late over- 
ture: the late addition to the Mission augurs illy I think of 
its result; Clay is a clamourous advocate for the continuance 
of the war and the conquest of the Canadas. Russell is a 
time-serving* wretch, added in my opinion to affect the secret 
views of the Cabinet, by dividing the vote of the Commision, 
whenever it may be necessary for that purpose; thus it is true 
he may neutralize the violence and policy of Clay, if the 
Cabinet are really determined upon peace, but a mission 
thus constituted will move awkwardly and always with 
embarrassment, there will be no affinity of principle or accord- 
ance of views, and of course no mutual confidence: 

The terrible military and political reverses which Bona- 
parte has experienced during the last year, cannot fail to 
have a salutary influence upon our Cabinet, and their tone 
in negotiating will rise or fall with the prospect of his for- 

I have been greatly surprised that no motion has been made 
by the minority in Congress to promote an enquiry into the 
abuses of expenditure in the army departments, they have cer- 

iNotwithstaiidiug Davie's fear.s the Treaty of Peace was sigue 1 Decem- 
ber 24th, 18 U 

Letters. 75 

tainly been enormous, and such an enquiry is necessary to 
prevent their continuance, and would have the effect of attract- 
ing- the attention, and opening- the eyes of the people — I 
wish you would write to 'Pearson or some of your friends on 
this head This is the moment— — for every beneficial pur- 
pose . 

A peace at this time would save the party from ruin-If Mr. 
Madison views it in this light, Peace we shall certainly have, 
so infatuated are the people it is astonishing- how little popu- 
larity they have lost, by all their 2 mismanag-ement and blund- 

Let me hear from you soon, and believe me with great 
respect and reg-ard 


W. R. Davie. 
Address to this place via Camden. 

To General John Steele, 

P. S. 

We have heard much of some 3 salt-works somewhere in 
Rowan County, the accounts are extremely contradictory, and 
as it is now a very interesting thing-, I would be much oblig-ed 
to you to g-ive me an account of them, their progress and 
prospects, we are told they already sell salt at two dollars and 
are able to make immense quanities every day. 

^ Joseph Pearson was a lawyer at Salisbury; Representative in Congress 
1806-1815; fought a duel while a member with J. 0. Jackson; was uncle of 
Chief Justice R. M. Pearson. 

2That the Republican Party came out of the war, retaining its hold on 
the favor of the people, seems strange. It was saved by the naval vic- 
tories, by that of New Orleans, and other engagements of a minor nature, 
and especially by the glaring blunders of Federalists leaders. Instead of 
holding up the hands of the administration they indulged in sharp denun- 
ciations and perpetual fault-finding. By many, probabiy the majority of 
Republicans, they were belu-ved to bo aiding the enemy. 

3Now John S. Henderson, of Salisbury, writes me that he has been un- 
able to ascertain anything about these alleged salt works.